The Art of War

Book Review



The Art of War


Sun Tzu


Thomas Cleary


Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA



Reviewed By:

Frank Fogg

Review Date:

August, 2001


Over 2000 years ago, Sun Tzu created the legendary classic The Art of War. Thomas Cleary presents his translation of the classic following  the Taoist tradition and includes commentary by well-known interpreters of Sun Tzu's writings.

Get more information about The Art of War at Amazon.comThomas Cleary provides extensive background on the history of this work including what is known of the life and times of Sun Tzu. He contrasts the writing of The Art of War against a larger background of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoist beliefs that provide the basis for thought during the Warring States era of Chinese  history. The thorough introduction gives the newly initiated reader a broader perspective from which to assimilate the main ideas.

Cleary uses the introduction to brief the reader on the  contents of all thirteen chapters of The Art of War. He discusses the broad outline of content, and reviews the most important points of each topic. His  discussion and analysis is contained within this introduction, leaving the reader free to read the actual text without hindrance.

The text of the classic is formatted for easy reading and  interpretation. Each of the commentators is listed by name at the beginning  of their statement, and Master Sun's actual text is boldfaced and indented.  Each commentator brings additional meaning to the story by providing either an illumination or alternative reading of the original text. Cleary includes commentary when it is most useful to the reader, with little redundancy in presentation.

I found this rendition of The Art of War particularly easy to read. The lack of added commentary within the story itself increases the  continuity of the text, and Cleary's insightful introduction provides substantial background for the reader to appreciate the context of what is being said by Master Sun. For those readers that have yet to devour the Art of War, this interpretation  should not be disappointing.

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