“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Art of War

by Sun Tzu. Translated by John Minford. Penguin Books.2009

Violence is as inherent in man as is the yearning for peace. Ssu-ma Ch`ien, a disciple of Confucius said –‘Every animal with blood in its veins and horns on its head will fight when it is attacked. How much more so will man, who carries in his breast the faculties of love and hatred, joy and anger! When he is pleased, a feeling of affection springs up within him; when angry, his poisoned sting is brought into play. That is the natural law which governs his being....” . Violence resulting from a sudden emotional outburst can be understood; so also violence for the sake of survival. But war is a deliberate act of violence when it is conducted without provocation. The fact that man’s mind more than 2500 years ago was as cold, chilling and morbidly fascinating as today, is proven by ‘The Art of War’, written by Sun Tzu Wu (c.551-496 BC).

One of the best sellers in the last century, ‘The Art of War’ continues to be read and analyzed, not only by military personnel but managers in the boardroom as the ultimate guide to winning. In 13 chapters, each with the briefest possible lines, Sun Tzu Wu, who was a famous General in China, details the deliberations and strategies of conducting warfare. Listen to the very first stanza: War is a grave affair of state; it is a place of life and death, a road to survival and extinction, a matter to be pondered carefully. Chapter headings indicate the succinct and lucid nature of the contents: Making of Plans, Waging of War, Strategic offensive - to the final chapters Attack by Fire and Espionage – it reveals a brilliant, objective mind that leaves no stones unturned in its pursuit of victory and nothing less.

The Art of War, translated by Lionel Giles with copious notes and considered as the most authoritative work, is available as Project Gutenberg E-book. Though the classic translation by Giles is excellent with its notes, it would be enlightening to read it along with the translation by John Minford.

The Art of War takes us into the depths of a fascinating mind; ruthless but detached, broad yet focused, passionate but objective; Sun Tzu Wu’s work is a masterpiece that should adorn the shelves of all who wants to understand the complexities of human nature.

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 24-09-2010


  1. After reading this I searched for the book in Flipkart. They have it in stock, gonna get one soon.

  2. Could be the Chinese version of Nicholas Machiavelli or our own Chanakya"

    Complexities of human nature, they were the same from the dawn of human beings ?

  3. Arun: Check it out at Blossom. I got my copy from there. Also, go to Gutenberg e-book.

    @ANil: you said it. Nothing, nobody has changed. A must read for all.


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