A Novel Of Martial Arts – The Eleventh Son

One of the top three Chinese martial arts fiction writers, Gu Long (1937-1985) wrote sixty-nine novels in a career spanning twenty-five years. Millions of copies of his books have been sold, and many of them have been repeatedly adapted for TV or cinema. His other important novels include The Compassionate Swordsman and the Merciless Sword (1970), The Orchid at Midnight (1979) and Hunting Hawk, Gambling Game (1984). At the age of forty-eight, he died of liver disease caused by excessive alcohol drinking. Rebecca S. Tai received her master’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles. She enjoys reading adventure fiction and watching martial arts drama.

On one of his missions, Xiao (the Eleventh Son, known as the Great Bandit) meets Shen, the fairest woman in the martial world. By the will of fate, he rescues Shen several times, which plants the seed of love in both of them. However, Shen is married to a rich young man who is also an outstanding martial artist. As if things were not complicated enough, Xiao has his own secret admirer, Feng, an attractive swordswoman with a quick temper. Xiao is drawn into a messy fight for a legendary saber, the Deer Carver, and is accused of stealing it. Xiao finds out that the person who has set him up is a mysterious young man with an angel’s face and a devil’s heart. Before he can pursue any further, Shen’s grandmother is murdered, and Xiao is named the killer. It appears that things are spinning out of control?

The following are some comments made by several foreign readers.

This book is the only official translated wuxia novel of by the Late Gu Long (Ku Long, Ku lung) available in English to date. Gu Long is one of the three best wuxia writers ever, so having one his novels finally being recognized is indeed wonderful. While comparing it to other translated wuxia novels are rather unfair, because Gu Long has his own distinct writing style, nevertheless in technical aspect of translating, Becky Tai, the translator, exceeded the rest, mainly when compared John Minfor and Graham Earnshaw. Becky Tai maintained the writer’s original writing style and mood, even if the words and sentences are now in English. Additionally, Becky kept the names and important terms in Chinese pinyin and explained them to her readers, a much better approach than changing character’s name into English or ignorantly using the term "Karate" for Chinese martial arts, like Minford did in his translation of The Deer and the Cauldron. Overall, this book worths every penny and should be collected by anyone who love the "wuxia" (Chinese knight-errand) genre but unable to read neither Chinese characters nor any other Asian language in which many wuxia novels have been translated.

As far as I know, this is Gu Long’s second novel published in the West. The first was Christine Courniot’s French translation of "Les Quatre Brigands du Huabei" available from amazon.fr. This is the first professional and complete English translation done by Rebecca Tai. Those of us, who have an interest in martial arts fiction, seek out novels like this one but you do not have to be a martial arts aficionado to appreciate this excellent novel. Gu Long, more than Louis Cha, has a poetic style of writing that is unique to the genre of Chinese martial arts fiction. I find the settings of his novels lush and beautiful which leaves a lot to the imagination. Gu Long has acute psychological insight into human nature combined with the human relational understanding of honor and shame. The characters are fascinating, the situations that these characters find themselves in are at times fantastic but that is typical of literature that encompasses history and fantasy. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was a new and refreshing experience.

This is one of the first translated novels from the famed Chinese martial arts fiction write Gu Long. It’s well translated and takes you back in time to a mythical China thousands of years ago, when martial art and Chinese beauties went hand in hand. The world Gu Long creates is romanticized with diverse characters both good and evil, and all well versed in the martial arts. With great character development, Xiao, Feng, and Shen are very believable and sometimes humorous. This is like a literary version of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero, or House of Flying Daggers. Kudos to Rebecca Tai for translating and Homa for bringing a great Chinese literary gem to the states!


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