'The Art of War': a new version by Michael Nylan

For the first time, a woman scholar and translator offers an updated interpretation of Sun Tzu's work
Michael Nylan

 -   Michael Nylan

On 13 October, one of history's greatest bestsellers, Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War', will be launched in bookstores, translated for the first time by a woman scholar and translator, University of California professor Michael Nylan.

Nylan's impeccable version offers a masterful and original account of this classic work, balancing overtly military content with thought-provoking and insightful analysis. Readers will be inspired by Nylan's authoritative voice. Thanks to her years of academic study, she is uniquely positioned to introduce readers to Sun Tzu's classic work through her detailed annotations on the culture and complexities of translating ancient Chinese into a modern language.

Sun Tzu's ancient book of strategy and psychology has as much to say to us today as when it was first written 2,500 years ago. In a world of constant conflict, its rules for anticipating the ambitions and strategies of our competitors never fail to inspire great leaders.

Michael Nylan, in his thought-provoking introduction, uncovers new and unexpected lessons to be learned from 'The Art of War' that can be applied to a wide variety of fields: business, relationships, games of skill, academic careers and medical practices. Strategy, like conflict, permeates the very roots of society.

El arte de la guerraThe art of war during the pandemic

There is no denying the importance that 'The Art of War' places on strategic thinking. Nor its enormous influence in the two most predictable contexts: that of military planning and that of battlefield combat. But it is also applicable to more unexpected contexts, for example:

  • In games of skill such as chess.
  • In academic pursuits, since war is a surprisingly common metaphor in the history of academic studies, such as at Harvard Business School.
  • In business.
  • In sexual dalliances, with their titillating "coming on" and "going off".
  • In certain medical practices, where a disease, described as an invasion, must be overcome or defeated, as in the current coronavirus pandemic.

This would explain why 'The Art of War' is increasingly present in everyday life.

Considered one of the most influential texts in history, it has been used by military strategists for more than 2,000 years and admired by great figures such as Napoleon and Mao Zedong. In Spain, Emilio Botín, former president of Banco Santander, acknowledged that it was his bedside book. Moreover, the strategy that Apple and Tesla apply in China is based on many of the principles set out in 'The Art of War'.

Why read 'The Art of War'?

As Michael Nylan points out in his introduction: "The book begins with a discussion of how to harness the wills of elites and those without access to great power, and alludes to the ups and downs of people in all ranks and walks of life, ending with a reflection on success and failure, with a strong emphasis on the intelligence work provided by defectors and spies in particular. It is all the more gripping to read in the current age when artificial intelligence and big data seem to suggest that humans are more manipulable than we might like to think, while an often-hostile world unfolds through the internet, full of new battlefields."

Michael Nylan

"The invasion of Iraq or Brexit, to give two recent examples, clearly reflect the failure to address long-term planning and the use of trivial stereotypes," he also points out, adding that "perhaps the most profound message derived from 'The Art of War' is that any victory depends on knowing ourselves, at least as much as knowing the obstacles coming from the other side".