Sunday, 11 April 2021

The Way of the Samurai

AuthorEiji Yoshikawa (Hidetsugu Yoshikawa)
First Published: In serialised form between 1935 - 1939
Pages: 301 (984 in total)
Ebook Publisher: Kodansha International
Ebook Date: Aug. 2012

Musashi is the title of a Japanese historical epic novel written by Eiji Yoshikawa that relates the tale of the life of legendary 17th century swordsman Musashi Miyamoto. In real life, Musashi himself was the author of the famous book on swordsmanship, The Book of Five Rings as well as The Path of Loneliness. He is regarded as a Sword-Saint (Kensei) in Japan, and was the survivor of sixty-one duels. His is renown for adopting the style of simultaneously wielding both a katana and the wakizashi, something unheard of in the 17th century. 

Musashi the novel, was originally published in serialised form between 1935 and 1939 in the newspaper Asahi Shimbun. Since then it has been translated and appears in both a single volume edition as well as being divided into separate paperback titles. It is commonly advertised as the "Japanese Gone with the Wind". For my review, although it is now available in single volume in eBook format, I have decided to read the paperback editions (purely because they have been sitting on my bookshelf for over twenty years waiting for the right time to be read). Although the tale of Musashi in it single volume form, is split into seven "books", the paperback titles do not confirm to the precise same structure. for instance, Book One in the single volume version consists of Chapters 1 to 12 - but my paperback copy published by Corgi in the UK in 1990 ends with Chapter 15 "Hannya Plain"; all of Book One "Earth" and half of Book Two "Water". Books One and Two are quite short in comparison to later Books, so these feels in keeping with the rest of the Corgi editions which consist of seven titles.

Eiji Yoshikawa was born in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan in 1892. The collapse of his fathers business, meant that he had to abandon his own education before completing Primary schooling ad start working as boy at the tender age of only eleven years old. Following various degrees of success at different jobs, Yoshikawa eventually found himself winning first prize in a novel-writing competition at the age of 22. By the time he was 29 he had joined the staff of a newspaper, and soon began to contribute serialised stories for publication. This success led to him to begin work on the life of Musashi.