Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

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As a foundational text of human spirituality, philosophy, and politics, The Tao Te Ching is obviously worth reading on its own merits. Let alone that it’s beautiful and succinct. One thing I found especially interesting in reading this translation by noted badass Ursula K. Le Guin is that, as she herself explains, it’s “not a translation” at all, but rather a “rendition.” As someone with a deep personal history with the text but who had no fluency in Chinese, Le Guin built this version up on top of the various available English translations and related texts - sometimes synthesizing, sometimes adopting and sometimes disagreeing their interpretations. She provides technical and personal notes on many of the sections that it’s reasonable to describe not just as footnotes but as a metanarrative, about the history of the text and about her history with it. This Tao Te Ching is not only more approachable for an English-speaker or an American but emobodies what can be most important about sampling, and remix, and marginalia: it puts the authoritative text, and authoritative interpretations of it, on even footing with personal affect and personally informed editorial decisions. It indicts power and empowers the reader in her relation to the words on the page in a way that is wonderfully emblematic of - and in unstable interplay with - Lao Tzu’s own message.