I really wasn't expecting to enjoy the Art of War - a classic text on war strategy that is favoured amongst corporate executive types - but enjoy it I did. The Art of War is is beautifully written, translated in a highly poetic style that encourages contemplation. There is clearly an element of time rusting this book to gold; if you were to replace the referenced military hardware at the time (horses, cross-bows etc), with jet fighters and tanks, it would lose much of its charm, even though the underlying strategic message would be unchanged. The text is not faultless by any means, as the translator, who has performed an excellent job, points out in an interview:
'But I also find much in the book that is frankly unacceptable! It proposes what is to me an insidiously calculating approach to human relations, one which is directly contrary to many of the fundamental humanistic values that I uphold. All the talk is of manipulation, of using every situation to one's advantage. '
'So, when we read this material, by all means we should take in its insights; but I feel quite strongly that we need to keep a critical perspective. I am against any sort of uncritical reading.'
I'm in full agreement with the translator and yet there is still enough good stuff in this little text to warrant a four star rating.