Review (Guest): The Art of War

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Culture, Research, Insurgency & Revolution, Leadership, Philosophy, Strategy
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Sun Tzu (Author), Samuel B. Griffith (Translator), B. H. Liddell Hart (Foreword)

5.0 out of 5 stars A Serious Study

December 26, 2010

By Retired Reader (New Mexico) – See all my reviews

This English translation of this classic work by Sun Tzu is certainly an excellent one in that in addition to providing the original 13 “Chapters” of the original work it also provides the reader with considerable background that places this work in its proper context. It also provides commentary on specific portions of each chapter by Chinese scholars of Sun Tzu. All in all, the late Samuel B. Griffith has produced one of the more complete and carefully organized versions of, “The Art of War.” Any serious student of this classic work will find Griffith’s work an excellent resource.

The written Chinese language is ideographic not phonetic and consists of thousands of pictographic characters whose meanings often depend on how they are arranged and combined into compounds. Further, Chinese doe not employ Western style punctuation so it takes a good deal of skill and knowledge for a Western to know where to break Chinese texts into sentences and paragraphs. Griffith appears to have done an excellent job in translating the Sun Tzu texts into something understandable by an English reader.

Yet understanding the statements of Sun Tzu much less applying them to current situations requires that the reader be willing to actually exercise critical and contextual analysis to really understand the concepts that Sun Tzu was presenting. Griffith clearly understood this which is why he made sure to provide the historical context in which “The Art of War” was written. If the reader is not willing to make this sort of mental commitment, but simply wishes to be able to drop an occasional quote from Sun Tzu then it doesn’t really matter which of the numerous versions of this work that is available is purchased.

A final note if the reader of this work by Griffith is able to read Chinese, then as a supplement to this fine book, a book containing the 13 Chapters presented in modern Chinese Characters would be useful. “The Art of Strategy” by R. L. Wing is one example of such a book offering the reader a split text of Chines and English.

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