Riku Sayuj's Reviews > The Art of War: The Definitive Interpretation of Sun Tzu's Classic Book of Strategy

The Art of War by Sun Tzu
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did not like it
bookshelves: classics, books-about-books, mba-stuff, r-r-rs
Read 2 times. Last read May 11, 2014 to May 12, 2014.


Quick Demo: On Ruining a Classic Text

Kaufman (author more than translator, I feel) boasts: In this work you will learn how people are to be treated and dealt with. The work was written for men in command and leaders of states. It is for the ambitious and strong spirited; do not seek morality lessons here.

Sun Tzu has been translated and interpreted countless times by people with little knowledge of true combat reality on either the physical or mental level.

Most of the available translations and interpretations maintain a poetic approach that really doesn’t pertain to the times we are living in. There is a tendency to maintain a “mystique” regarding ancient knowledge. This is quaint, relative to today’s aggressive personality. We are living in a global network and must think in decisive terms if we are to succeed.

He also chooses to leave out the valuable commentaries, which are supposed to be as much a part of the work as the original.

He says: In reality, who cares what Ch’en Fu thinks about Sun Tzu’s hidden meaning about the jade stalk in the midst of the enemy’s goldfish pond? We are grown-up and intelligent enough to develop our own understanding without the need for quaint allegories. There is nothing sacred here. I find that approach unnecessary, limiting, and a waste of time to the educated reader.

And here is a fun fact:

As an acknowledged and world-recognized martial arts master, a Hanshi (which is the highest rank attainable), I am thoroughly aware of my responsibility for the interpretation of this doctrine, and I have made it incumbent upon myself to explain Sun Tzu’s tenets as I perceive them in a definitive manner. 

— Must have recently taken a crash course on how to prepare a CV!

Well, the book is a bore and a complete failure. It does no justice to Sun Tzu’s masterpiece and is worse than the regular self-help fare because it has only pretentiousness (of being tough, goal-oriented, warlord-like, if you please) and no real intention of even trying to 'help' any non-delusional executive.

There is a reason why The Art of War is always presented poetically — it is so that the metaphors can be interpreted by the reader and applied as they want, so that they can understand the spirit of planned and prepared combat/conduct and apply that in life. That is why Art of war is an enduring and much loved classic.

The author obviously has no clue about all this. He thinks it is a good idea to just present the text as-is, without ornamentation, without poetry, without any hints at broader applications beyond the battleground — Because the global corporation IS a battleground! Hello!

Not realizing that once you strip away the poetry, you also strip the power of metaphor and what you have left is a dated txt that talks of war and claims to be for managers. It makes no sense to be told in plain prose to poison your enemy and insult his wife. Idiotic, without even being entertaining. Takes all the fun out of reading a bad book.
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Reading Progress

August 2, 2011 – Shelved (Paperback Edition)
October 23, 2011 – Started Reading (Paperback Edition)
October 24, 2011 –
100.0% "Not entirely sure if Giles' was the right translation to pick up. In any case, it had a certain majesty to it and the timeless elegance of great works. Not sure about the relevance and applicablity that the back cover boasted of though. My interest was derived primarily from the rich tapestry it wove of 600 BC China." (Paperback Edition)
October 24, 2011 – Finished Reading (Paperback Edition)
May 11, 2014 – Started Reading
May 11, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
May 11, 2014 – Shelved
May 11, 2014 – Shelved as: classics
May 11, 2014 – Shelved as: books-about-books
May 11, 2014 – Shelved as: mba-stuff
May 11, 2014 – Shelved as: r-r-rs
May 12, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-23 of 23 (23 new)

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message 1: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo Thank God! One more book I don't have to read.


message 2: by Jan-Maat (new)

Jan-Maat In reality, who cares what Ch’en Fu thinks about Sun Tzu’s hidden meaning about the jade stalk in the midst of the enemy’s goldfish pond? We are grown-up and intelligent enough to develop our own understanding without the need for quaint allegories. There is nothing sacred here. I find that approach unnecessary, limiting, and a waste of time to the educated reader.

That is very interesting - so the hallmark of an educated and intelligent reader is to ignore the context of any book and always to seek the reader's digest version and to ignore the medium of communication?

What a self restricting outlook!


message 3: by Riku (new) - rated it 1 star

Riku Sayuj Lilo wrote: "Thank God! One more book I don't have to read."

Don't get me wrong. The original Art of War is a treasure. I had read the Ralph D. Sawyer trans. but the Cleary one might be the best.


message 4: by Riku (new) - rated it 1 star

Riku Sayuj Jan-Maat wrote: "In reality, who cares what Ch’en Fu thinks about Sun Tzu’s hidden meaning about the jade stalk in the midst of the enemy’s goldfish pond? We are grown-up and intelligent enough to develop our own u..."

I love 'educated' people who try to minimize time wasted on books. Not to mention talk of nuances and such unnecessary stuff. Straight talk is what busy people need. Let us go read Ayn Rand?


message 5: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope The words "definitive interpretation" in the subtitle are a giveaway.


message 6: by Riku (new) - rated it 1 star

Riku Sayuj Kalliope wrote: "The words "definitive interpretation" in the subtitle are a giveaway."

Yeah. To claim that of an ancient manuscript takes serious mojo.


howl of minerva The word "interpertation" in the subtitle is a give away :)


message 8: by Riku (new) - rated it 1 star

Riku Sayuj howl of minerva wrote: "The word "interpertation" in the subtitle is a give away :)"

It is a very confused book. The author also claims he is the first translator to not dilute the text by interpreting it... that we need to keep the focus of the book in the battleground, where it was supposed to be. and then keeps talking of boardrooms with unbearable machismo.


howl of minerva I wanna know what interperting is. Putting pert things between other things?


message 10: by Riku (last edited May 12, 2014 06:31AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Riku Sayuj howl of minerva wrote: "I wanna know what interperting is. Putting pert things between other things?"

Oh my. I didn't even notice the spelling! I am sure that is a GR mistake though :) Now I get the jokes.


message 11: by Riku (new) - rated it 1 star

Riku Sayuj I thought I will correct it but checked Amazon just to be sure -- guess what, this IS the official title. Nice.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007...


message 12: by howl of minerva (new)

howl of minerva Lol figures...


message 13: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo Riku wrote: "I thought I will correct it but checked Amazon just to be sure -- guess what, this IS the official title. Nice.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007...-..."


This puts me at ease. Seems I no longer have to worry about misspellings and typos in my books. :-)

New slogan: "Six weeks ago, I didn't know how to spell author, and now I are one."

(Used to only be put into engineers' mouths. Seems to also work for authors and editors.)


message 14: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Business needs an author who can interperpetrate the anagram that a sword is mightier than words.


message 15: by Riku (new) - rated it 1 star

Riku Sayuj Ian wrote: "Business needs an author who can interperpetrate the anagram that a sword is mightier than words."

Really, there is no dearth! This book is a shining example. If only I could figure out what is the modern equivalent for the sword.


message 16: by mark (new)

mark monday incredible that he had the nerve to write those things. UGH.

There is a reason why The Art of War is always presented poetically — it is so that the metaphors can be interpreted by the reader and applied as they want

seriously, what kind of moron doesn't get that? well I suppose the kind that wrote this book. this review made me angry!


message 17: by mark (new)

mark monday correction: the kind that wrote this "definitive interpretation"

my God, the gall of this author.


message 18: by Riku (new) - rated it 1 star

Riku Sayuj mark wrote: "correction: the kind that wrote this "definitive interpretation"

my God, the gall of this author."


Sorry to have got you so worked up mark!


message 19: by mark (new)

mark monday it's good to get angry from time to time!


Zanna oh thank you so much for this. thank you for going into the abyss. thank you.


message 21: by Riku (new) - rated it 1 star

Riku Sayuj Zanna wrote: "oh thank you so much for this. thank you for going into the abyss. thank you."

hehe. yeah, pretty shallow abyss this


message 22: by Jada snead (new) - added it

Jada snead I. Love to read


message 23: by Riku (new) - rated it 1 star

Riku Sayuj The spelling seems to have been corrected :( This one I think I have to blame myself for.


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