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The Master of Go – A Very non-traditional Novel

January 31, 2012

The Master of Go is not a novel in the traditional western sense. It is a piece of reporting of the game of Go, a game like chess, but infinitely more complex.

The game is between an aged master and a newbie. The whole novel traces the developments of the game which goes on for days and at last the newbie defeats the master quite unexpectedly.

Behind the lines depicting the real game of Go, it is the story of the decay of traditional Japan and its defeat at the hands of the modern western thought systems. The master represents the traditional Japan, and his defeat symbolizes the end of that Japan.

“The Master seemed like a relic left behind by Meiji.”

The disciple who is more rational in his thoughts represents the modern West and its excessive stress on rational and logical faculties of man.

“Otake’s manner, as he repeatedly threatened to forfeit the match, carried suggestions of an inability to understand the courtesies due to an elder, a want of sympathy for a sickman, and a rationalism that somehow missed the point.” P. 55

For Japan, the game of Go is not just a game, but an exercise of their whole civilization, a miniature dynamic model of Japan, but for the disciple and the West, Go is just a game.

“The Oriental game has gone beyond game and test of strength and become a way of art. It has about it a certain Oriental mystery and nobility.” P. 117.

Though the master is defeated, but the disciple is not give credit for his game which is not quite Japanese in flavor.

“One could see in the divergence a spiritual incompatibility, and perhaps something physiological as well. The Master too was known as a careful, deliberate player.” P. 156.

The Master of Go is too technical for most of the reader who are not familiar with the game of Go, but the background undertones makes it worth reading for anyone.

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