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Richards reviews Thomas Huynh’s Sun-tzu

Dr. Chet Richards has reviewed the latest translation of one of the world’s oldest and greatest military classics:

The Art of War, trans. Thomas Huynh

One significant difference between Huynh and the other two is how they handle comments. Both Griffith and Cleary include remarks by the “canonical” commentators, a group of Chinese generals and pundits from Sun Tzu’s day through about the 12th century. They both also limit their own commentary to introductory remarks, 62 pages in the case of Griffith, 37 for Cleary. Huynh does not provide any of the canonical commentary. He does have a fairly brief introduction and translator’s note (totaling 18 pages), but most of his commentary is incorporated into the even-numbered pages that face the text on the opposite (odd numbered) pages.

Whether you like this is a matter of personal taste. It does allow for a smooth, uninterrupted reading of the Sun Tzu text itself, which is difficult in translations that have commentary interspersed with the words attributed to Sun Tzu. This is a huge plus. As for Huynh’s comments, they fall into two categories. One, which all readers will appreciate, concerns his insights into the language of the text and the environment of Sun Tzu’s day.

….A new translation of Sun Tzu from original sources is a major event, and this one would make a good addition to any library. If you get only a half dozen new insights – and you will (I did) – the book will repay its price many times over. Add it to the translations you’re using now and you’ll gain another source of ideas.

Read the rest here.

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