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Wednesday June 24, 2015 in Books
Tales of the Emperor is based on the life of Qin Shi Huang (circa 260–210 BCE), the “First Emperor” – he who unified China, gave it his name, built the Great Wall, entombed an army of terra cotta soldiers, authored legalism, erased history, insinuated governance, and established paranoia as a national characteristic. His dynasty did not outlive him but his influence permeates the present and, there is ample indication, will dominate the future.
The literary method of Tales of the Emperor is derived from the first Chinese attempt at “writing history” – the famous Historical Records of Ssu-Ma Ch’ien. Like that Chinese classic, Tales of the Emperor is motivated by the desire to understand the past by entering it, mixing testimony with anecdote, interpretation with invention, biography with characterization, objective analysis with passionate self-interest.
Birth to death, Tales of the Emperor tells the story of its central figure in a thematic rather than a chronologic narrative. In a mosaic of separate tales – some no more than fragments, others chapter-length – intersecting characters are presented, entwined, relinquished, among them a failed assassin, a wily adviser, an ironic architect, a castrated historian, an entire tribe of grave builders, and, of course, the wry, conflicted, everyday tyrant himself. The Emperor’s accomplishments are documented, his strivings are examined, and intimate tittle-tattle about him is indulged.
There’s only one principal theme: you find the antiquity you look for, or, in the language of the book: “history is the study of the paintings of great events.”
Read excerpts from Tales of the Emperor on Meta-Talon.
ISBN 13: 9780889229440 | ISBN 10: 0889229449
5 W x 8.5 H inches | 264 pp pages
$19.95 CAN / $19.95 US
Backlist | Fiction
QUOTES OF NOTE
“an elaborate fantasy [like] a set of handcrafted nesting boxes … Winter skilfully interweaves fact and fiction … imaginative writing … Tales of the Emperor is an admirable achievement”
– Winnipeg Free Press
“Tales of the Emperor claims to be ‘a novel … the birth-to-death story of the first Emperor of China’, but this word is quite inadequate. [Winter’s] supposition is that what we believe or imagine happened is as likely to be true as any ‘official’ history and so his narrative contains poems, songs, myths, fantasies, dreams, aphorisms, hearsay, fabrication, and downright lies – and even the lies might turn out to be the truth. … Read and learn, I say, and you’ll end up wiser, even more confused, and highly entertained, I insist. … Read it and weep, I say – and raise a laugh as well.”
– Peace News
“Histories are written using histories, and canons are created, just as surely in the lives and works of performers and companies as in playwriting. Jack Winter’s own story fulfils all the requirements for canonization, and quite rightly. [His work] reminds us of the complexities of the artistic life … in particular, the powerful relationship between international, national, and local politics. But it also reminds us that all histories, any histories, are first of all personal.”
– Stephen Johnson, Theatre Research in Canada
About the ContributorsJack Winter
Jack Winter has taught literature, modern theatre, and creative writing at several Canadian and British universities, including York University and Bristol University. From 1961 to 1967, he was resident playwright at George Luscombe’s Toronto Workshop Productions, where he wrote seven stage plays. In a second tenure with TWP, he wrote five more.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.