Jan Jiráň: The Monkey King / Zdeněk Sklenář

Long ago, when the heroes of the tale were just learning how to use magic, the Monkey King – Sun Wukong – was roaming the world.  Sun knew how to transform himself in seventy-two ways; he was fearless, quick-witted, and clever, and had infinite magical abilities. Rascal and hero in one, he could also become as invisible and unobservable as the wind. He gave to the world a magic staff and became the prototype for the fantasy fiction of today. This rascal with uncommon charm and a sense for mischief has been the hero of Chinese children as well as adults for more than five centuries.

The Monkey King is the protagonist of Wu Cheng’en’s sixteenth-century novel Journey to the West, which is one of the most famous classical Chinese novels of all time. In 1961, Zdena Novotná (later Heřmanová), translated the 1957 Chinese adaptation for children (Si-jou-ťi ku-š’ / Ancient Tales from Journey to the West) for the State Children’s Literature Publishing House under the title The Monkey King, and this Czech version included the iconic illustrations by the painter Zdeněk Sklenář. The book was adapted by Jan Jiráň.

It received two awards in 2016: The Gold Ribbon for Best Artistic Achievement and third place in the Literature for Children and Youth category in the Most Beautiful Czech Book of the Year competition.

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