- Taschenbuch: 128 Seiten
- Verlag: Weatherhill Inc (1. Oktober 1992)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0834802686
- ISBN-13: 978-0834802681
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 14,6 x 1,3 x 22,2 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: Schreiben Sie die erste Bewertung
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 1.165.009 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
The Animal Court: A Political Fable from Old Japan (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 1. Oktober 1992
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In this Swiftian parable from 18th-century Japan, four tribunals of animals - the birds, the beasts, the crawling creatures and the fishes - gather in turn to judge the follies of the human race.
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'Court', by the way, seems to have the sense of 'Imperial Court' rather than 'Court of law'. Animals of the several kinds meet, and Shoeki creates clear precedence among the lords and under-lords, the generalissimo (I wish I knew what word led to that translation), and all the other ranks within each kingdom. Shoeki establishes the proper role for animals of each type - including the roles of predator for the larger and prey for the smaller. The humor lies in showing how behavior proper to an animal is quite unsuitable for a human, no matter how common it may be.
The whole story is backed by hundreds of years of folklore about each animal, combined with alchemical beliefs about the five elements (fire, air, water, metal, and wood), plus a huge mythology or philosophy of Shokei's own. The story was written in the 18th century. Scientific thought was well established in Europe back then, but seems not to have been as strong in Japan of that day. The contrast is fascinating, even if Shoeki is not an accurate representative of his time.
Most interesting, though, was Shokei's choice of targets. Shinto priests came under fire. Buddhists of the half-dozen major schools took more of his sarcasm, as did doctors. Shokei outdid himself, though, in repainting Confucius, Mencius, Lao Tzu, and Chuang Tzu as criminals against the proper humnan spirit, as parasites on society, and as breeders of other human parasites. Other historical masters are less well-known to Western readers, but suffered the same fate at the hands, paws, wings, and fins of Shokei's menagerie.
As I said, I wonder about parts of the translation. I also wonder whether Shokei had trouble sustaining his initial writing energy. Each chapter is shorter than the one before and, I think, less sharply written. Still, the book as a whole is delightful. The commentary within is interesting, but the 18th century social and scientific Japanese thought behind the book is what really held my interest.
The blurb on the back cover of this book describes it as Swiftian. In some ways, it would be more accurate to describe "The Animal Court" as Orwellian. In George Orwell's "Animal Farm", "[t]he creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again, but it was already impossible to say which was which." The animals in Shoeki's tribunals compare human society to their own, and find very little difference. One of the few differences, according to Shoeki, is that the behavior of beasts is largely guided by instinct, while humans make a conscious choice to behave in a beastly manner