» » The Eleventh Son: A Novel of Martial Arts and Tangled Love (February 15, 2005)

Download The Eleventh Son: A Novel of Martial Arts and Tangled Love (February 15, 2005) epub

by Long Gu


On one of his missions, Xiao Shiyi Lang (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….


Download The Eleventh Son: A Novel of Martial Arts and Tangled Love (February 15, 2005) epub
ISBN: 1931907161
ISBN13: 978-1931907163
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Action & Adventure
Author: Long Gu
Language: English
Publisher: Homa & Sekey Books (February 15, 2005)
Pages: 384 pages
ePUB size: 1261 kb
FB2 size: 1302 kb
Rating: 4.2
Votes: 177
Other Formats: mobi txt lrf doc

This might be a weird comparison, but I think of Gu Long as the "Wong Kar-wai" of Wuxia. Much of the story is dialogue, and the narrative is "cut" like with a movie camera. The author himself was a womanizer and a drinker, but he had the soul of a poet. There is a deep sense of tragedy even when a man and woman are just talking because you can sense they are emotionally not really put together, but they have an understanding between each other that goes beyond that.

A lot of relationships are like that in real life.

Long has a sort of dark, barroom vision of life. It's impossible to forget. I think he was in many ways the most international of the famous Wuxia writers. His influence is prominent in a lot of Asian media. The more grotesque characters linger in the mind.

And because of this I think his world is very close to our own.
I have had this book in a different language since many years ago, but this English version feels better to read, especially because my old book was apparently not translated fully - it does not have the poems or lyrics in it. And as you can expect, Gu Long's story is always quick-paced and carries deep thoughts about human characters.

Rebecca S. Tai has done a wonderful work here. She should translate more of Gu Long's books. In my view, her translation is at least as good as John Minford's in "The Deer and the Cauldron".

If you like martial art stories, this is one that you should not miss.
I am the translator. I appreciate every reader's comments about this book. It's not my place to judge the value of Gu Long's work. I was just trying my best to translate Gu's story based on my own understanding and interpretation. However, I do have to defend my translation. Gu never wrote "Men are more sensitive than women." The comment in question is from p. 217. Please see the third line from the bottom of the page. I will give the quote here: "Women are much more sensitive then men." I wouldn't say this comment is universal truth or common sense. No matter what Gu did write, someone would be offended. However, to tell the truth, if Gu had indeed said it the other way around, I might not have been inspired to translate this novel in the first place.

For those who are curious about what this story is really about, below is a book review from YellowBridge, a Chinese-American guide:

Despite the popularity of movies such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "House of Flying Daggers", the English reader does not have too many choices when it comes to finding the martial art novels that inspired these type of movies in the first place. The first modern master of the genre to be translated into English was Louis Cha, who was based in Hong Kong and is the undisputed giant of the genre. With the translation of "The Eleventh Son", we have an excellent sample from another great writer, Gu Long, who was based in Taiwan. Gu Long ("Ancient Dragon") was the pseudonym for Xiong Yaohua (1937-1985), who is considered one of the top martial arts novelists. He wrote sixty nine over a twenty-five year career that was cut short at age 48, when he died due to liver failure caused by excessive drinking. "The Eleventh Son", published in Chinese in 1973, was a popular source for several movies and TV series, including Swordsman and Enchantment, a 1978 hit movie. Gu Long also published a sequel to the novel in 1976 but "The Eleventh Son" stands complete on its own.

The title character of "The Eleventh Son", Xiao Shiyi Lang, is an atypical hero even in the colorful pantheon of kung fu heroes. He is a true free spirit who, having no permanent home or family, aimlessly roams the land as he likes. He is highly skilled in the martial arts but he does not have the reputation for selfless service we come to expect of kung fu heroes. On the other hand, the established martial arts community is led by a group of exalted gentlemen whose martial skills are apparently only matched by their virtues. In fact, their reputation is such that the core group of six members is known as the "Six Ideal Gentlemen". Although Xiao's alleged crimes have never been witnessed by anyone, the "Ideal Gentlemen" have already labeled him as the "Great Bandit", a ruffian that needs to be stopped lest he sully the reputation of the whole martials arts community.

These two worlds collide when Xiao happens to rescue Shen Bijun, the most beautiful woman in the martial world, from repeated kidnap attempts. Shen is the daughter of a prominent family and happens to be married to Lian Chengbi, an accomplished martial artist from an equally respected family. In other words, Shen was already married to her perfect match, at least by the standards of Chinese society. Unfortunately for Xiao, Lian also happens to be one of the "Six Ideal Gentlemen" who are out to get him. Because of injuries they sustained as well as lies spread by Xiao's enemies, Xiao and Shen spend weeks on their own and on the run from the "Ideal Gentlemen" as well as from the person who tried to kidnap Shen in the first place. Although Shen is never unfaithful to her husband and Xiao's behavior towards her is always aboveboard, Gu Long is able to weave an ever more intense web of emotions between the characters even though they never actually reveal their inner feelings to each other. To make things more complicated, Xiao is not without his female admirers. His sometime drinking buddy and probably only friend is another free-spirit martial artist called Feng Sinian, who is probably secretly in love with him. It was Feng's scheme to steal a famed sword that put Xiao in the path of Shen Bijun in the first place.

The powder keg environment that Gu Long has created is perfect for the novel's twin themes of love and hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is dealt with straightforwardly. Without giving too much of the plot away, we can say that the "Ideal Gentlemen" simply aren't so ideal after all. They all have skeletons in their closets that are the real reason they are all so bent on killing the presumed bandit. But in the subject of love, and more specifically, the pain of love is where Gu Long really shines. I have never read a novel in which the pain is so palpable even though the presumed love between the two protagonists is never actually spelled out. Both Xiao and Shen are mindful of what the proper behavior between two unrelated person of the opposite sex would be. Neither ever considers running away with the other. There's never a spoken expression of love or even a kiss. And yet no stronger bond of love could ever be created. Each is prepared to sacrifice himself or herself to save the other. Whereas many a writer has written about unrequited love, Gu Long has made a strong case that requited love can be even more painful.

As only the second martial arts writer in English translation, Gu Long is certain to invite comparison to Louis Cha. The two writers, who actually knew each other, are equally adept at surprising and entertaining their readers but use very different techniques. Both writers were well-read in both Western and Chinese novels and thus brought new vigor to the Chinese novel. Louis Cha tends to infuse his novels with historical facts and freely weaving historical personages, both real and mythical into novels. His novels tend to have a large cast of characters and they often interact with the historical figures. The result is that his novels tend to have an epic quality to them. Gu Long, on the other hand, as the translator reminds us, was very conscious of how novels, even those set in ancient times could be interpreted by government censors as commentaries on the present. To avoid possible censorship, he explicitly avoided historical references. As a result, the novel does not give much clue to identify the specific time period. The number of key characters is relatively small but they are described in rich detail. There's also an underlying sensuality that is usually lacking in kung fu novels. The overall effect is a much more human-scale novel that is the perfect laboratory of human emotions.

As translator Rebecca S. Tai writes in the introduction, Gu Long, introduced a unique writing style characterized by very short paragraphs, many just one sentence long. Gu Long also sprinkles very interesting personal observations about human behavior throughout the narrative. His wry observations, a few of which could appear dated or politically incorrect to a Western reader, help understand the motivation behind his characters.
The Eleventh Son (Xiao Shiyilang (蕭十一郎)) is one of the few wuxia novels translated to English & the only Gu Long one I know of. Surprised by strong female swordswomen characters. Ms Tai's translation reads very natural, does not seem translated. Side note: someone should make a movie of this book. & a movie of Gu Long's life- Ang Lee are you "listening".
There are not too many English translated work of Chinese novels, especially books in the Chinese martial art genre. From a translation perspective, this is a good one. But from a story perspective, I did not like it as much. There is not too much details in the fighting scenes, just summary of it. The focus seems to be more of a relationship between the 2 main characters. Also, the ending is anticlimatic. I was a bit disappointed with the build up and then it just ends with little hint of what eventually happened. It seems like a unfinished story and definitely left room for a sequel of some kind.
I loved this book! It was an exciting read, and the translation was good. I have passed it on to friends. If you like martial arts movies, this is a book for you.
Many write off Gu Long for being overly modern, and if your looking for a martial arts novel that goes into encyclopedic detail on the world of wuxia this is not it. Gu Long's approach to the wuxia novel appears to be extremely dry and terse at first glance, but this novel reveals itself as a contemplative work on human relationships and gender.

If what I have said holds any interest to the perspective buyer then the novel should hold interest as well.
Love this book and I love the translation.; The first chapter was so brilliantly written and the words brilliantly translated. But the price is steep!