ksj1970's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous emotional reflective slow-paced

4.25

kalanadi's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous emotional lighthearted reflective medium-paced

4.0

maygparry's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous inspiring reflective relaxing fast-paced

4.0

I loved the vivid descriptions. So vivid that I, too, felt like I was on the journey. 

rmtbray's review against another edition

Go to review page

reflective relaxing slow-paced

3.0

kennethtcox's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous challenging informative inspiring reflective slow-paced

4.0

bibliole's review against another edition

Go to review page

challenging reflective medium-paced

3.0

oldpondnewfrog's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

The compiler of a lifetime reading plan said that this was a rare example of a perfect book—he wouldn't change a single word of it. I think I sense what he sees, but don't actually see it myself.

It just seems like a travel journal, a little bit boring because I don't know the places he describes ("And then I went to So-And-So Shrine. And then I went to So-And-So Mountain"), or the references he makes that may only be familiar to 17th-century-Japanese-scholars ("My heart was heavy, for I remembered the famous poems of Sesshoko, Saigyo..."). It's actually five different journals, each a chapter of the book.

But sometimes I glimpsed more, especially when reading it very slowly. I think maybe it's just very condensed (like haiku), and so doesn't lend itself to the type of page-turning I normally do. Sentences can be beautifully flat, simple. For me, they ring. "At last I reached my native village in the beginning of September, but I could not find a single trace of the herbs my mother used to grow in front of her room." Or: "I went into the temple to have a drink of tea." So I think I'll be returning to it later.

The first paragraph of the title section: "Days and months are travellers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of years, spend every minute of their lives travelling. There are a great number of ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind — filled with a strong desire to wander."

This seems like a strong translation. I think it has good cadences.

elisehagen's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous hopeful reflective relaxing slow-paced

4.0

orithyia's review against another edition

Go to review page

reflective relaxing slow-paced

4.0

lachesisreads's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

Back when I was at university, my main subject was Japanese literature, and I was lucky enough to get to translate some of Basho's work from the original Japanese with the help of an awesome professor (not that I could do it alone, mind). And I absolutely loved it.
Ever since then I've been meaning to read The Narrow Road to the Deep North. But, now that I have, I have to say that having had exposure to the originals actually made the reading experience of this book much worse.
The Japanese language is incredibly rich and nuanced, particularly when it comes to poetry. To name just one example, there's something called , or seasonal word. Those are words expressing images associated with a season, and often a whole panorama of other ideas and/or a very specific setting or concept associated with that season. A well-known example of this is the cherry blossom, which not only tells the reader that the poem is set in spring, but also implies the exquisite sadness at the transience of all things. A Japanese reader (usually) knows and recognizes these and is therefore able to pull a world of meaning from the few syllables contained in the poem. Meaning that is, naturally, completely lost in translation. That's in the nature of things and just means you really ought to get an annotated edition that fully explains the poems if you want to get the full experience.
However, I thought this translation really lacked everything. Japanese isn't a language that lends itself to translation terribly well, but even so, this was disappointing. It felt very lacklustre and humdrum.
And of course the whole genre of Japanese travel sketch is unlike what a western reader would expect from a travel sketch, and unless you know that going in, it's going to leave you scratching your head. This book explains none of it. What it does offer is a bare-bones translation of the work.
I would rate Basho's work 5 stars, but to this translation and edition I really can't give more than 3.
This was also my entry for the category "a classic from Africa, Asia or Oceania" for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2019.