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A Hero Born
- Lu par : Carolyn Oldershaw, Daniel York Loh
- Durée : 13 h et 42 min
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The Chinese Lord of The Rings - now in English for the first time.
The series every Chinese reader has been enjoying for decades - 300 million copies sold.
China: AD 1200
The Song Empire has been invaded by its warlike Jurchen neighbours from the north. Half its territory and its historic capital lie in enemy hands; the peasants toil under the burden of the annual tribute demanded by the victors.
Meanwhile, on the Mongolian steppe, a disparate nation of great warriors is about to be united by a warlord whose name will endure for eternity: Genghis Khan.
Guo Jing, son of a murdered Song patriot, grew up with Genghis Khan's army. He is humble, loyal, perhaps not altogether wise, and is fated from birth to one day confront an opponent who is the opposite of him in every way: privileged, cunning and flawlessly trained in the martial arts.
Guided by his faithful shifus, The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing must return to China - to the Garden of the Drunken Immortals in Jiaxing - to fulfil his destiny. But in a divided land riven by war and betrayal, his courage and his loyalties will be tested at every turn.
Translated from the Chinese by Anna Holmwood.
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Well read terrible story
On the reading itself, it's a good performance with different intonations for the many different characters. My only qualm is that a few times the volume of the voice became too low and I couldn't understand anymore.
The story itself is an absurd plot chock-full of dumb two-dimensional characters who confuse an extreme sense of pride and patriotism for good.
The sorry plot will enfold itself regardless of common sense :
- in the beginning, in the night, a lady saves a dying enemy soldier (who, conveniently, happens to be an evil handsome prince from the enemy's side) who falls in love with her at first sight. She tries to tell her husband (who may have killed the bastard), but whatever she did, she just couldn't wake him up (what the hell?). The dying soldier is gone in the next morning, and later an army comes by, kills the man and kidnaps the woman. We don't really know why the army does so (maybe the evil prince was behind it?), but they are led by an evil and corrupt officer, so I guess that's enough of a reason.
- the evil and corrupt officer flees to the north with the woman he kidnapped, being pursued by strong martial artists who want to free her. He knows she is the only reason why they keep chasing him, but releasing her and going back to his normal life never crosses his mind. He wasn't even attracted to the woman, and we'll never be given any reason as why he kept her with him.
- ... and much more non-sense will unfold. But the plot must go on!
Good and evil is extremely simplistic and racist in the book. Evil characters are treacherous murderous rapists, and mostly on the side of the Jin empire. The Song empire is full of corrupted evil officials as well who use the army and their power against innocent citizens, but somehow they still are the good side, as it's the side of the Han chinese who have superior culture and purity of heart (to be opposed to the Jins, who are evil invaders who rape and kill everyone they face).
There is a incredibly strong confusion throughout the book between good and honor or being patriotic (pro-Song/Han), and violent and murderous characters will often be praised as good people as their extreme violence and imperviousness to any form of reason is due to their great love for their country or their impeccable honor that cannot be sullied.
Ethics are just one of the very simplistic thing in this book unfortunately. In the case of love, the hero (who is described as a dullard by the novel's characters, which is saying something) will meet his future wife in a tavern. She asks him to give him more and more things, and he agrees everytime. She is so moved by his naivety that she falls in love. Wow.
I've heard that foreigners (= non-chinese) cannot like Jin Yong's work due to it being too hard to translate. I have to disagree, and I cannot see how could any translation make something worth reading out of such bad-quality material.
I can understand the enthusiasm about Jin Yong's work from people who were read the stories when they were children. I did also love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle anime, before growing up and realizing that the scenario was complete trash. It was "cool" and there were lots of flashy things, and I still have a fond spot for it.
But I cannot understand how any normally functioning adult not influenced by memories from childhood could read A Hero Born and find there anything worth their time.
Better than a Chinese Lord of the Rings
Jin Yong’s Legends of the Condor Heroes (1957-59) has been called "the Chinese Lord of the Rings," but it features no Elves or Hobbits or Orcs or Dark Lords--just human beings. It’s a Historical Epic Fantasy Romance Adventure Kung Fu Bildungsroman featuring male and female martial arts experts (wuxia) of different traditions, abilities, and personalities in the early 13th-century historical context of the rising Jin Empire trying to complete its takeover of the declining Song Empire while both empires are trying to enlist the aid of the Mongols being unified by Genghis Kahn. One of the most popular books in the world, with 100s of millions of Chinese-speaking readers, Yong’s four-volume magnum opus is finally being translated into English. A Hero Born (2018), translated by Anna Holmwood, is the first of the four volumes to be translated. Not being able to read Chinese, I have no idea how accurate the translation is. All I can say is that listening to the audiobook was one of the most unstoppably entertaining reading experiences in my life.
The sprawling story centers on Guo Jing, a good-natured, naïve, slow, and persistent peasant youth, and his relationship with the love of his life, Lotus Huang, a clever, quick, bold, and independent rich girl. Though Guo Jing grows up among the Mongols as martial brother to Temujin’s youngest son, he and Lotus Huang are patriotic children of the Song who hate the Jin. The story relates the fate of Guo Jing’s parents and their friends, the Mongolian childhood of Guo Jing, his training in kung fu by the Seven Freaks of the South, his encounter with formidable foes like the renegade kung fu husband and wife duo Copper Corpse and Iron Corpse (aka Twice Foul Dark Wind), his departure on a mission to try to kill the scheming Jin prince Wanyan Honglie, his falling in love with Lotus, and his further educational adventures in kung fu and life.
If you like heroic fantasy and are interested in Chinese history and culture or liked the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), you would like A Hero Born. It’s a cinematic page turner by turns humorous, scary, thrilling, or moving because Jin Yong is so good at creating colorful characters and then putting them in unexpected situations in a rich world with a history that matters. His heroes and villains are flawed, distinctive, vivid, and human. The novel is full of humor (e.g., “He wasn’t known as the Butcher of a Thousand Hands for nothing”), pathos (e.g., “For eighteen years she had thought he was dead, and here he was, her husband, standing before her, like a spirit reincarnated”), and terror (e.g., “Some time passed and then a cracking sound started echoing all around them, first slow, then faster, like beans popping in hot oil. The noise was coming from her joints, but she was sitting perfectly still”). There are moments of devastating psychological truth, as when a needy princeling orders his servants to catch a rabbit so he can break its legs and then bring it to his tender-hearted mother and say, "I found a wounded rabbit for you to tend," so she can say, "Oh, you are a good boy," never realizing his cruelty or duplicity. Indeed, Jin Yong has a rich sense of irony: an act of mercy sets in motion a chain of tragic events; the reader knows someone’s identity the characters are clueless about; the best laid plans involving painstaking years of preparation often go awry. The irony leads to pithy and wise remarks on life like, “But it as they say: the swimmer is the one to drown, the cart always breaks on flat ground.”
Jin Yong writes imaginative, exciting, and unpredictable action scenes ranging from personal duels to big battles. In addition to different kung fu disciplines and techniques (e.g., Nine Yin Skeleton Claw, Neigong Inner Strength, Water Kung Fu, etc.), he assigns countless fanciful or descriptive names for the kung fu moves “performed” by his characters: Mandarin Duck Kick, Enter the Tiger’s Lair, Branch Beats the White Chimpanzee, Black Dragon Gathers Water, Cat Chases Mouse, Pick the Fruit, Open the Window to Gaze at the Moon, Embracing the Gentleman’s Cape, Jumping Carp, Eight Steps to Catch the Toad, Falling Star, Laugh the Jaw Out of Joint, and many more. (I loved reading action like, “He reached for the spear and traced a Rising Phoenix Soaring Dragon through the air, the red tassel dancing behind him, until the point thrust forward straight at the cupboard.”) At times the kung fu verges on the superhuman, but it obeys a set of rules that are gradually revealed, confirmed, and played with: all kung fu masters have a single weak spot on their bodies, are limited by their ability to control their chi (inner life force), are supposed to be honorable (poison is permissible if you keep the antidote handy), and are never always the best: “Every peak sits under the shadow of another.”
There are more appealing things in the work. It contains many savory Chinese cultural references, from quoted poems, Taoist monks, and exotic dishes, to the ubiquitous kowtow, elaborate names like The Garden of the Eight Drunken Immortals, and similes comparing things like black hair to the clouds in an ink painting, rain drops to soy beans, and a waist-sash to “the color of spring onions.” And its treatment of gender is impressive, as characters like Lotus Huang and Iron Corpse are believable, sympathetic, strong, and at least as formidable martially and intellectually as the men.
Daniel York Loh reads the audiobook with great empathy, understanding, and restraint. He does a splendid malevolent and damaged Iron Corpse voice, a perfect civilized spoiled princeling voice, and nice Guo Jing and Lily Huang voices.
I had a wonderful time with A Hero Born, often on the edge of my seat or chuckling with pleasure, often surprised, never bored. As it ends with simultaneous cliffhangers, the moment I finished it, I had to start the second volume, and I’m sure you will, too.
4 personnes ont trouvé cela utile
Legende der Adlerkrieger auf Englisch.
Die englische Version der Legende der Adlerkrieger. Etwas anders aufgeteilt als in der deutschen Version.
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- Benedict O'Donnell
A Chinese gem hidden in plain sight
What a treat :) Ten years of learning Mandarin and I had never heard of the book. I have since been talking about it to my Chinese friends and they all tell me they loved it as kids. Big thanks to the translator.