Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Journey to the West, Wu Cheng’en

Before you complain about my choice of a Chinese story, note that until your Chinese is far better than my own, my recommendation is to expose yourself to Wu’s masterpiece through Arthur Waley’s magnificent translation known as Monkey.

Before you insist that a story about a monkey demigod and his even more bizarre traveling companions has no place on your reading list, ask yourself how much less you would appreciate the world with no knowledge of Greek mythology or classic Talmudic and Chassidic parables. And then after you put aside your misgivings and thoroughly enjoyed yourself, you will, like me, wonder at how a tale of such profound and delightful nonsense came to be China’s most famous folk tale and what that may suggest about a culture that is certainly worth exploring further.

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