Hey /lit/. Just wanted your recommendation on The Asian Saga by James Clavell, and what books to read and avoid.
I've heard that Shōgun is really good but I don't know.
Shogun is fantastic as is Tai-Pan. If you want to learn more about Asian culture I recommend the former over the latter, as Tai Pan seemed to focus a lot of the British traders more than Chinese culture. Don't let that discourage you, doe, it's really good.
Noble House is one of my favourite novels and a riveting drama for all 800 pages. Clavell sometimes gets dismissed as "airport fiction" but I swear that there's not a sentence of padding in the entire book. Reading it now kind of makes me despair for a lost era too.
Shogun >= Taipan > Noble House
Shogun doesn't really bear on the other books, but Taipan sort of sets the foundation for the rest in that it introduces the family who are generally the main characters. The only exception is King Rat which is about allied POWs in a Japanese internment camp in SEA. I forget, but I think King Rat may be somewhat autobiographical. Anyway, King Rat is okay. I'd skip Gaijin. Whirlwind/Escape I could take or leave unless you're interested in learning about Iran.
Shogun and Gai-Jin are standalone novels, although they are referenced in the other books (a character in Whirlwind mentions that the hero of Shogun is a distant ancestor, characters from King Rat have small roles in Noble House). The four sequential books which depict the family saga of the Struans are Tai-Pan (Hong Kong, 1830s), Gai-Jin (Japan, 1850s), Noble House (Hong Kong, 1963) and Whirlwind (Iran, 1979). There was going to be another book set in the 1870s called "Hag" after one of the notorious characters to link them but Clavell died before it was finished. You'll see another book called "Escape" but it's just an abridged version of Whirlwind that cuts out sticks together one of its subplots into its own novella and is disposable.
The only one i was able to from start to finish is Noble House and i really liked it. It's the only book i have read this far where you could follow business people in their daily business dealings. Later some people who studied litrature called it crap and it hurt my feelings. I tried readin Shugon, Tai pan and Gaj jin ut was not able to finish them. In Shogun he spends a lot of time making sure that you understand how different the Japanese are but it's not moving the plot along. Boring as fuck. Oh yea, there was a nice torture scene that i can't unread.
Yes, Musashi and Taiko are very good. Eiji Yoshikawa's Musashi is pretty much the foundation for every samurai movie/anime you've ever seen. Of course, he drew on a lot of history and tradition, but his characterization of Musashi, the battle with Sasaki Kojiro, and Musashi's dual wielding style which he developed while essentially wiping out a Kyoto school of swordsmanship is all touched with Yoshikawa's own style/treatment which then bled into everything that followed.
You need to read Taipan first which is about the founding of Hong Kong. I think that puts Noble House in a different perspective because it's really about the Straun's attempt to retain control of HK.
Here is a thing I wrote about Musashi/Shogun for a private message board. I wasn't editing very carefully, but it may be of interest to people in this thread:
There is a Japanese sensibility that eludes adequate description for me. I think that Westerners often see Japanese as naïve or morally suspect in some ways, and I'm not giving Japanese a free pass on doing fucked up shit, but I think the main problem comes from simply a wholly different way of prioritizing ethical values. From my perspective, Japanese are all around less afraid of death and more invested in attempting to achieve sublimity - dedicating their lives to something great, whereas in the States I think there is an expectation to do things “sensibly” and in line with what is “right” or “wrong” according to either rule/act-utilitarian or religious notions. Undoubtedly, because some of the same pressures exist in Japan to live “sensibly,” we see the prevalence of salarymen. Even there, dedicating your life to being a salaryman, for the most part, defies traditional ideas of what is “right” or “wrong,” but I’ll skip over that for now. I think it’s just important to note that in trying to achieve sublimity, Japanese do not rule out humor, or cuteness, that seems childish to dominant Western ideas about “right” and “wrong” and “sensible” actions.
This distinction between Japanese and Western sensibility is notably visible when comparing two historical fiction novels like Musashi and Shogun both set in roughly the same period (Shogun takes place right before Ieyasu Tokugawa, under a fictional name, becomes the shogun, and Musashi directly after the battle at Sekigahara). Shogun takes itself seriously, very seriously, and that's great, it's a great book. The characters are filled with the gravity of every action they take and are blockbusteringly heroic. Musashi on the other hand has cute or funny moments, and some over-sentimentality, that does not contradict its emotional or philosophical depth. Moreover, it manages that balance while remaining streets closer to what is historically thought to have happened than Shogun (which takes a single historical figure and extrapolates an entire story based on that).
Note about Shogun: The character events of Shogun are only loosely based on fact (though one side of Tokyo station is named Yaesu after the character who the novel is based on) and it gets a lot of flak for anglo-centrism and “giggle giggle what a big dick this foreigner has,” but it does provide a wealth of relatively factual information about the period. It isn't exact, but much like The Last Samurai, Shogun would probably be generally accepted by the Japanese public more so than by indignant “purists” in Western countries. Of which I am one only when it serves my purposes and/or ego.
To finally give overview of the book, it's about Miyamoto Musashi, a bad ass swordsman who really existed and even wrote a book called “The Book of Five Rings.” Of course, a lot of the shit that is known about him is probably legend and exaggerated, but there is a lot that is probably true. He developed the two sword style of fighting known as Two Heavens as One (Niten Ichi), was an artist, fought a bunch of duels, and caused the downfall of one of the most famous swordsmanship schools in Kyoto. Mix in love (familial and romantic), zen, and near unbelievable personal growth, and you have Musashi.
The downside is that this is not a short work. At nearly a 1000 pages, it definitely could have been slimmed down a little, even just a tad, especially in the parts that follow the point of view of Musashi's antagonists who, I thought got a bit annoying and repetitive at times.
I think the characters are sometimes familiar in that you've seen them before in a samurai movie, or in other media. But they're familiar in a way that makes you suspect they are the authentic model for which other characters are based. It was released as a newspaper serial in 1935 and I have a feeling that it, and other samurai related novels like it were likely the basis for the popular image we have of them today. Many of the characters are quite memorable and I find myself recalling them clearly even now.
One thing that I find myself also recalling is the notion that time is needed, that the arrogance of youth often makes us unwise. This is not a particularly new idea, and probably overvalued by Japanese to the point where youth is underrated, but I do think that in the WEST, or perhaps the US especially, youth is considered too great a value. Growing up I even heard that genius never strikes after 30 or something to that effect. I think that sort of thing is bunk and do think that we ought to not only have more respect for age, but that it's important to not think we know, with such a fierce certainty, so much about life when we're so young. Louis CK in his most recent stand up, talks about this theme a little, simply saying that older people are wiser because they've seen more. This (d)evolves into a joke about seeing someone jerk someone else off. It's well-tread ground really, but this book made me dwell on it a little more. I suppose the whole moral is just, remember humility, and that's a lesson that we could learn irrespective of age.
Anyhow, if you're looking for a Summer read to last you for awhile, this is a truly great book for anyone interested in samurai motifs.
Yeah, I think it must've been the modern setting. I enjoyed some things about Noble House but I was so bored half way through that I had to give up.
Also, maybe because I read all four straight through, the cat and mouse business deal stuff felt a little repetitive.
I will probably give it another shot in the future.
That's interesting, though. I felt like some parts of Gai-Jin were extremely exciting, but some sub-plots were very tedious.
What else do you want to talk about - I'm here to talk about Clavell and these novels, just don't know what else to say. Introduce a topic or question if you want more discussion. :o)
>ctrl f 'self published book with cover of samurai sword suspiciously and humourously phallic
step it up reddit
Hey guys any books like Shogun but set in Europe? I loved Shogun and I want to bring something like it on a big trip next summer. Doesn't have to be crazy patrician shit but I definitely want something really historical and comfy. Bonus points if it's set in Italy, France, or Germany.