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The Tale of the Heike Paperback – Mar 1 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (March 1 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804718032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804718035
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 15.7 x 3.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 680 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #280,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The late Helen McCullough was a scholar of the first water and possessed the talent for writing both intelligently and interestingly. Everything I have read of hers has been well worth the price of admission and 'The Tale of the Heike' is widely regarded as her finest work.

I cannot recommend this enough for those interested in the Gempei wars, as it contains a masterful blend of both interpretation and translation of the source material.
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By A Customer on Sept. 8 2003
Format: Paperback
But Helen McCullough left me feeling like not all the translations made it through with all their meanings intact. I realize such a minor point should not keep me from rating her a 5, but the poetry of Japan has so much expression (and double meaning; see Genji) that I felt left out of the story.
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Format: Paperback
Translations of Japanese and Chinese classics are often hampered by the archaic language used in the originals. This was not the case here and the translator has achieved a balanced fusion of great story-telling and accurate presentation of the text. This is no small achievement since the Heike tale is populated by many diverse characters some of whom are only mentioned once whereas others have great influence on the plot despite their brief appearances.
I have found that the best way to read the book is to treat oneself to the episodic nature of the chapters. This reflects the original format of the story; that it was expressed in minstrel style story-telling by the "biwa-hoshi" in nightly recitals. As such each segment of the story can be treated like individual pearls in a string, each complete and entertaining by its own merit but strung together to form the whole epic saga of the Heike. Attempts to read the book in the style of a conventional Western novel with its continuous narrative will result in frustration since the story seem to take many didactic excursions and side plots. This may also have been the rootcause to the earlier frustration of another reviewer who encountered too many characters to comprehend at one single reading. A similar experience can be found if a first time reader tries to read the Bible continuously from Genesis to Revelation.
The other great challenge in this translation is in its reference to the characters of the story. The long titles accorded to each individual felt cumbersome and unnecessary at first but as I continued reading I began to appreciate that the original narrators of the tale were relating to the traditional Japanese audience, not the modern reader.
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By Meursault on July 11 2001
Format: Paperback
Admittedly, the book is a bit rough for the average reader. It is, nonetheless, the root of oh so many modern stereotypes of Japan, and, interestingly enough, Western popular mythologies (Star Wars anyone?). If you read, keep in mind that the book is based on historical facts - facts translated through the mouths of blind traveling bards - performances then immortalized in various text/versions - and then, centuries later, translated into English. Ms. McCullough had a daunting task and has done an amazing job. It takes effort to read this text, but it is well worth your time.
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