Monkey King: Journey to the West (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (Paperback)
On Our Shelves Now
*Now a Netflix animated movie featuring Stephanie Hsu, Bowen Yang, and BD Wong among the all-Asian voice cast*
Before there was The Lord of the Rings, there was China's Monkey King, one of the all-time great fantasy novels--which Neil Gaiman has said "is in the DNA of 1.5 billion people"--now published in a thrilling new one-volume translation with an illustrated foreword by the author of the New York Times bestselling graphic novel that is the basis for the Disney+ series American Born Chinese, starring Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu, as well as Daniel Wu as the Monkey King
A Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, with flaps and deckle-edged paper
A shape-shifting trickster on a kung-fu quest for eternal life, Sun Wukong, or Monkey King, is one of the most memorable superheroes in world literature, known to legions of fans of the most popular anime of all time, Dragon Ball, and the world's largest e-sport, the video game League of Legends. High-spirited and omni-talented, he amasses dazzling weapons and skills on his journey to immortality: a gold-hooped staff that can grow as tall as the sky and shrink to the size of a needle; the ability to travel 108,000 miles in a single somersault. A master of subterfuge, he can transform himself into whomever or whatever he chooses and turn each of his body's 84,000 hairs into an army of clones. But his penchant for mischief repeatedly gets him into trouble, and when he raids Heaven's Orchard of Immortal Peaches and gorges himself on the elixirs of the gods, the Buddha pins him beneath a mountain, freeing him only five hundred years later for a chance to redeem himself: He is to protect the pious monk Tripitaka on his fourteen-year journey to India in search of precious Buddhist sutras that will bring enlightenment to the Chinese empire.
Joined by two other fallen immortals--Pigsy, a rice-loving pig able to fly with its ears, and Sandy, a depressive man-eating river-sand monster--Monkey King undergoes eighty-one trials, doing battle with Red Boy, Princess Jade-Face, the Monstress Dowager, and all manner of dragons, ogres, wizards, and femmes fatales, navigating the perils of Fire-Cloud Cave, the River of Flowing Sand, the Water-Crystal Palace, and Casserole Mountain, and being serially captured, lacquered, sautéed, steamed, and liquefied, but always hatching an ingenious plan to get himself and his fellow pilgrims out of their latest jam.
Monkey King: Journey to the West is at once a rollicking adventure, a comic satire of Chinese bureaucracy, and a spring of spiritual insight. With this new translation, the irrepressible rogue hero of one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature has the potential to vault, with his signature cloud-somersault and unerring sense for fun, into the hearts of millions of Americans.
About the Author
Wu Cheng'en (c. 1505-1580) was a Ming Dynasty poet about whom little is known, although he is believed to be the author of Journey to the West, which he published anonymously. He lived much of his life as a hermit.
Julia Lovell (editor/translator/introducer) is the translator of The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun and the author of Maoism and The Opium War. She is a professor of modern China at Birkbeck College, University of London, and writes about China for The Guardian, Financial Times, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
Gene Luen Yang (foreword) is a MacArthur "genius," the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, and the author of the half-million-copy New York Times bestselling graphic novel and National Book Award finalist American Born Chinese.
A Fortune Best Book of the Year
“A breezy, action-packed narrative . . . Rich with imaginative world-building that evokes the best Pixar films . . . The book is also quite funny . . . With this new readable version of Monkey King, Western readers will also have plenty of fun.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“A fun, accessible book that will attract readers to a text that may otherwise seem obscure and imposing . . . The jokes hit every register, from slapstick and toilet humor to dryly delivered drolleries. . . . The literary analog for the gonzo humor is Rabelais and the fight scenes are the stuff of superhero comics. But the comparison that kept coming to mind is with the irreverent, twinkling humor of Looney Tunes cartoons, with Monkey King a cross between Bugs Bunny and the Tasmanian Devil. . . . A rollicking work of high buffoonery.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“Exhibit[s] a rollicking exuberance . . . [It] has long been—and will continue to be—a rewarding and enjoyable reading experience for many people.” ―The Washington Post
“The best English edition of the classic Chinese fantasy novel I have ever read. If you wish to understand why Monkey King has been a fixture in Chinese popular culture for no fewer than five centuries, then look no further.” ―Minjie Chen, Los Angeles Review of Books
“A vivacious delight: a genuinely very funny book is given its full due . . . Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, is as vital a figure in Chinese as Robin Hood and King Arthur are in English.” ―Foreign Policy
“This accessible translation . . . allows Western readers to discover Monkey King’s mix of spiritual transcendence, slapstick humor, and deep satire.” ―Fortune
“Visit one of the greatest countries in the world through the pages of this Chinese epic [and] Julia Lovell’s new contemporary translation, with exquisite maps of ‘somewhat mythical lands.’” ―Piers Torday, The Guardian
“[A] brilliant new translation . . . Vibrant . . . Lovell’s characters speak in colloquial voices, which brings them vividly to life for modern readers. Her Monkey King is accessible enough to be read with young children―not something that could necessarily be said for other translations. . . . One hopes that Julia Lovell’s wonderful 21st-century account of [Monkey King’s] adventures will bring him continued literary immortality.” ―South China Morning Post
“We’re in the capable hands of a translator of our era. . . . Lovell is focused on solid, modern storytelling, not mere fealty. . . . Monkey King has contemporary currency beyond even The Wizard of Oz or The Lord of the Rings, to which works it bears more than a passing resemblance—Star Wars . . . comes to mind, along with myriad comic book and anime epics. . . . All who have loved Robin Hood, or Tolkien, or J. K. Rowling, or the superheroes [Gene Luen] Yang pings in his foreword, will find similar friends in Monkey, Tripitaka, Pigsy (the Friar Tuck of Asia) and Sandy. Thanks to Lovell’s engaging translation, it’s a fair bet that many more in the Anglophone world, especially the younger generations, will gain these friends, along with a greatly enhanced understanding of China.” ―Asian Review of Books
“A translation that’s really funny . . . [It] is a delight and a tour de force. . . . There are delicious dashes of alliteration. . . . I was particularly taken with the anachronisms. They are superlatively funny.” ―Nicky Harman, Asian Books Blog
“A mirthful tale of endless mischief, deception, irony and combat . . . Impish and adventurous . . . Thanks to this fresh translation . . . the adventures of superhero simian Sun Wukong are newly accessible to English readers around the world.” ―Global Asia
“A joy to read . . . Monkey King . . . is the superhero kids love to fantasize about. Naughty. Ingenious. Powerful. His weapons and magic skills are amazing and delicious. With his sense of humor, adventurous spirit, and his love of life, he is irresistible. The stories flow from the book beautifully, and we can’t wait to find out what trouble Monkey gets into next, and how he gets out of it. . . . This is a fun book for a large range of ages. . . . [It] is fast paced, and the 339 pages fly by. . . . Monkey King also includes a fun map to track the lands we’ve visited in the stories, and a list of the major characters. . . . The extras, like the introduction, add fascinating details about the book’s history, and delight those of us who are curious about this great classic. . . . Asians and Asian Americans can feel good that this book represents a bright star in our cultural heritage.” ―International Examiner
“I marvelled at the ingenuity, cheek and charm of Monkey King: Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en in Julia Lovell’s lively new translation: what a book to return to!” ―Daniel Medin, The White Review, “Books of the Year”
“Fantastically funny . . . [Monkey King’s] character is redemptive, his humor infectious—running the gamut from slapstick to drollery—and his journey one worth following. . . . Lovell is to be commended. . . . With a foreword by Gene Luen Yang and a delightful map by Laura Hartman Maestro, [her translation] will capture contemporary readers.” ―Mountain Times
“This new translation . . . breathes fresh life, humor, wit, and charm into the 16th-century classic. . . . If you did not know that this was an abridged version . . . you never would. . . . [It] is exactly as long as it needs to be, with the fat cut and the story paced perfectly. . . . Every line of dialogue drips with sarcasm, snappy one-liners, and laugh-out-loud observations for the lovable bastard that is Monkey. . . . If you’ve ever wanted to read Journey to the West but have been put off by fears of it being too long, too dense, too dry (as we have all thought when it comes to classics), then put those fears aside. Julia Lovell’s translation is nothing but fun, frantic fantasy writing. . . . She has injected the book with energy, spice, and humor. . . . I can’t imagine having more fun than I did with Julia Lovell’s hilarious translation. . . . There is no end to the fun and joy gleaned from [it].” ―Will Heath, Books & Bao
“An all-new translation of one of the greatest stories ever written . . . An out-and-out fantasy adventure that has captivated audiences and influenced creatives for centuries.” ―Bustle
“Jam-packed with outrageous danger and outlandish transformations . . . Lovell does an admirable job condensing the original text . . . while capturing the essence of Chinese fantastical storytelling and parody. Readers who enjoy nutty adventures and nonsensical plots will get a kick out of this madcap fable.” ―Publishers Weekly
“This new edition should more than satisfy anyone interested in reading not only a highly praised classic of Chinese literature, but also one of the most influential fantasy narratives in the world.” ―Booklist
“Of all [my mother’s] stories, my favorites by far were about Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. . . . With every comic book and graphic novel that I create, I am trying to recapture the wonder I felt when my mother would regale me with tales of the Monkey King.” ―Gene Luen Yang, from the Foreword
“A monument of world literature, Monkey King is also one of the funniest, most subversive satires ever written. There is no trickster quite as tricky, no companion more resourceful or more ridiculously entertaining, no hero more true than the monkey king. If you’ve not read Journey to the West, prepare yourself for the adventure of a lifetime and know that like Monkey himself, you are about to be transformed. No book can truly capture the stupendous, absurd glory of life, but Monkey King comes pretty damn close. Even if you have read Monkey King, Julia Lovell’s magnificent new translation becomes its own cloud somersault, its own gold-hooped staff.” ―Junot Díaz
“A new translation of Monkey King is a cause for joy! Imaginative and mischievous, exhilarating and timeless, this sixteenth-century superhero saga is a delight to readers of all ages.” ―Yiyun Li
“An exhilarating new translation of my favorite of all the classic Chinese novels—a great, wild epic that expands and fires one’s imagination.” ―Ha Jin
“Uproarious and action-filled, this highly readable new translation captures the most beloved of Chinese characters in all his impossible charm. Irrepressible and irresistible, Monkey speaks to us across the centuries, and here makes us laugh anew.” ―Gish Jen
“Monkey King is one of the great epics of our world. I spent a good part of my childhood enthralled with the adventures of the OG mischief maker, Sun Wukong. What a delight that this exhilarating translation of the timeless classic will entertain generations to come.” ―Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Legend, The Young Elites, and Skyhunter
“A fantastic retelling, easily on par with Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. Monkey King has never been so much fun; I friggin’ loved it.” ―Peter Clines, New York Times bestselling author of Paradox Bound
“Monkey King is one of the most memorable characters in all of Chinese literature, beloved of readers young and old. This is a first-rate translation, fluent and accurate—I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I think it will bring the novel over very successfully to the modern English-reading public, and help to enrich the Western perception of the Chinese cultural universe at a most important time in our world’s history.” ―John Minford, award-winning translator of The Art of War, Tao Te Ching, and I Ching
“The Monkey King, one of Chinese literature’s great characters, should add many new disciples to his existing fans through this compelling new version of his adventures. Julia Lovell here conveys a vibrant sense of the richness―and also the sheer fun―of this Ming dynasty text, a classic of world fiction from one of its first great ages.” ―Craig Clunas, University of Oxford