Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tai-pan

Tai-Pan (Asian Saga, #2)Tai-Pan by James Clavell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tai-pan is another East and West tale in the quality of Shogun, Clavell’s other popular book. Though in the later there is more versus between East and West, in Tai-pan there is more “diplomacy”.

For one reason the story of Tai-pan is more economic and business in nature. There is more subtlety in business than there is with the story of the samurai.

There is less antagonism between east and west because the main protagonists are western and the eastern are primarily in secondary role. Whatever conflict that ensues from the intermixing of cultures comes from the west trying to make sense of the east in order to make a buck and from the tai-pan trying to make sense of his mistress. But mostly the west is there to make something of Hongkong which was just newly acquired from China.

The tai-pan you see is the most powerful of the China traders: businessmen with fleets of sailing ships dealing with all sorts of products including opium. He is the king comparable to the shogun of the novel with the same name if you have read that. There is politics; there is geopolitics; of course these traders cannot move too much without some sort of backing from England herself. The most powerful naval power on earth is what makes business possible.

What makes this novel harder to understand however is that Dirk Struan, the tai-pan, is a Scotsman. His dialogue is spelled as it sounds with his accent. A Filipino like me has an ear mostly for American English. It is a strain for me to watch a movie that would be straight British, what more if it was spelled as it sounds.

Then to make it more difficult there is that mutated Chinese English. It’s not broken English mind you, there are English words there but it seems to have its own rules. I forgot to note the name though. Yes mostly that is the only irritation I can say of the novel. Negligible since I have understood the spirit of what the characters are saying if not in their dialogue then in the narration within the paragraph.

Of the story I have nothing bad to say. If you enjoyed Shogun then you will certainly enjoy Tai-pan.


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