Three Kingdoms, A Historical Novel: Complete and Unabridged: Complete and Unabridged v. 1 Paperback – 2 Jul 2004
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"By the measure of sheer density of history and drama, all other historical novels suffer by comparison to "Three Kingdoms, the great epic of the Chinese literary tradition. Roberts' rendition of the prose is lively and readable, but his translation of the poetry is a delight, capturing the flavour and pace, and sometimes even the rhyme, of the original."--"National Post (Canadian daily)
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"The Three Kingdoms gives us The Iliad of China. First of the five great works of traditional prose fiction, this master narrative transforms history into epic and has thereby educated and entertained readers of five centuries with unforgettable exemplars of martial and civic virtue, of personal fidelity and political treachery. Moss Roberts's translation, the first complete rendering in English, is one of surpassing excellence and impeccable scholarship. It should delight and captivate Western readers for many more years to come."--Anthony C. Yu, University of Chicago"Moss Roberts's elegant and powerful translation of China's most important historical romance has a stunning directness that aptly conveys the dramatic boldness of the original episodic narrative. English readers may now finally understand why this 15th-century novel so strategically shaped the political world-view of generations of Chinese."--Frederic Wakeman, Director of the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley See all Product description
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Words cannot express just how much I loved these books with its tales of heroic deeds, deception and devotion. Cao Cao's stupidity/arrogance is hilarious sometimes. An abridged edition is quite good, as it does cut out some of the 'boring' bits. But then you miss out on some really good chapters. BUY THEM NOW!!!! CAO CAO COMMANDS IT!!!
No-One can be sure who the author is precisely (controversy surrounds even the works of Shakespeare) but this book is generally attributed to Luo Guanzhong. It chronicles the tale of one of the periods of Chinese History known as the Three Kingdoms Period where the Han Dynasty fell apart into civil war, eventually forming three great kingdoms which continued to fight this civil war until the country is reunited.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms contains everything you could wish for in such a history. Admirable yet flawed characters. A vast list of characters who you will find yourself recalling again and again (Ah that man's beard is just like Zhang Fei's! Woah, he's as brave as Zhao Zi Long). The plot does not revolve around one character but moves sinously throughout the history. Devious tricks are the mainstay of the story and we see how great men are ruined and cowards sustained. You will find yourself writing down some of the quotations and strategems featured throughout the book and I definately think I'll read this again and again and again.
I think that the author's translation is accurate yet very fluid. Anyone familiar with translations of any language will often find that translators fail to transfer the fluency of one language to another. This translator manages to do this very well and also manages to abridge without ruining the story.
In short... buy this book and keep it for life.
The entire story covers almost 100 years, and the breadth of characters and affiliations in the era is so great that it was inevitable - in addition to bias - that the carriers of the tale would caricature most of it to create a simple 'good vs. evil' tale. So, once the several hundred pages of set-up are complete - which is good in itself, as the united heroes face rebel Yellow Scarves, scheming eunuchs, evil Dong Zhuo, valiant Lu Bu and arrogant Yuan Shao - the story turns into a struggle between the virtuous Liu Bei, the treacherous Cao Cao, and the opportunistic Sun Quan. But it's the supporting cast that really make the story work; the iconic Guan Yu and Zhao Zilong, the semi-comedic Zhang Fei, and the multi-gifted strategist Zhuge Liang carry Liu Bei's cause, fearsome Zhang Liao, enduring Zhang He and the Machiavellian Sima Yi fight for Cao Cao, while the jealous genius Zhou Yu, painfully noble Huang Gai and prodigy Lu Xun support Sun Quan. And that's nowhere near all. None of the portrayals are historically accurate - some being downright unfair - but it makes an epic read nonetheless.
The main attraction is the lack of that aforementioned simplicity, however; the Wu kingdom provide the Liu Bei cause with the ally they need to defeat Cao Cao at Red Cliffs, but end up being the cause of his downfall later as the two sides argue over the provinces of Jingzhou. And after that, well... read and learn. The 'plot twists' of this 3-way power struggle are pretty much the bait and hook, with the fate of Guan Yu needing especial mention.
It has to be said, however, that for some readers, the style may be uncomfortable (not to me personally, but other people I have shown the book to have said this). The story often shifts between the different groups, sometimes covering three or more sets of characters at once, and many amount to nothing more than exposition. This version also features a lot of translations of poems and sayings that can, to anyone not interested in Chinese culture, seem superfluous. The final 15 chapters also lack the scope of the earlier ones, as all of the main characters are no longer present for whatever reason. Repetition is something else I hear aimed at this novel; well, history has an annoying habit of repeating itself, with generation after generation refusing to learn from very-well-documented mistakes. This is, in fact, part of the point the novel makes, with mistakes seen at the start being repeated by the next generation at the end, with similar consequences.
All in all, this is a book I actually returned to more than once, and there's enough to keep a person looking for depth and scope reading for a long time to come (it's already been a staple read in China for 1700 years, so there you have it!).
But for 'Reader Lites' out there, there are other ways to enjoy the story... other book translations, John Woo's Red Cliff, subtitled copies of CCTV's 82-part TV series, and I even understand there's a graphic novel version if you know where to look.
Either way, give this tale a try; you won't be disappointed.
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