An Anthology of Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911

Owen (Chinese and comparative literature, Harvard Univ.) is well known to students of Chinese literature for his work in literary criticism. His latest book offers a most welcome compendium of traditional Chinese literature at once comprehensive in its coverage and creative in its approach to translation and exposition. The broad variety of genres presented includes poetry, letters, stories, excerpts from novels and drama, philosophical writings, even "profound jokes"-almost every form of Chinese prose and verse except the eight-legged essay. The samplings within each genre are liberal enough to give a good feel for all formats. Arranged chronologically, sections start with a "period introduction" that briefly gives a political, social, and philosophical framework for the period. Interspersed among the selections are explanatory comments. Frequently, Owen illustrates a stylistic or thematic point with examples from other periods and genres, thus enriching and maximizing the readers’ appreciation. He eschews many time-honored conventions used in translating Chinese, which may be startling to some. This is a prodigious work of translation (Owen rendered nearly all 900-plus pages singlehandedly) published at a bargain price; it will become a staple in introductory Chinese literature courses and a useful reference for specialists. Even with the end of the Ch’ing dynasty as its cut-off point, it surpasses other anthologies (e.g., The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature, Columbia Univ., 1994) in its inclusion of works not formerly anthologized and its cohesive translation style. Highly recommended. —D.E. Perushek, Northwestern Univ. Lib., Evanston, Ill.
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W.W. Norton and Company
New York
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