El Go: Un Juego Oriental Milenario, by Miguel Angel Antolínez Antolín. Nueva Acropolis; 1998.

Warning: I should confess that my knowledge of Spanish is less than complete, and while I think that it was good enough to understand this book, I'm sure that there's a lot in it that I missed.

This is a book the culture of go. It starts off with two long chapters on the origin, mythology, and symbolism of go and on the history of go, and also has shorter chapters on many other aspects of go (relating it to philosophy, education, fine arts, martial arts, war, economics, programming, chess) and gives an introduction to playing the game, including the rules, some proverbs, tactics, courtesy, equipment, and sample games.

This is a go book unlike any that has been published in English. There are sources in English that present some of the material in here (e.g. The Go Player's Almanac, Go: An Asian Paradigm for Business Strategy, some Go World articles, and introductory go books), but none that have the range of cultural discussion of go that this book has. And even in areas that are covered by other books, this book contains new information, not being content to merely rehash what is found elsewhere. It also has lots and lots of pictures (including many from Japanese Game of "Go", which I have scanned in and made available, but also many from other sources). I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, and would recommend it to anybody who knows a little bit of Spanish; if you're familiar with go, you can often figure out what unfamiliar words mean while reading the book.

As the introduction notes, you can consider go from many points of view, either simply as a game or as a cultural object in its own right. (My words, not the book's.) Almost all introductions to go in English concentrate on the former, and probably rightly so, but there's a whole lot more to go than its status as a game, and talking about those cultural aspects of go can serve to interest people in go who wouldn't be interested in it otherwise. For example, right now the American go playing public seems to be full of computer programmers, who are probably the sorts of people who are more likely to be intrigued by the game just by hearing the rules, but I don't see us as attracting the kinds of people who are intrigued by other aspects of Asian culture (e.g. Buddhism, yoga) and who might also be interested in go as much as we could be. Judging from the list of other Nueva Acropolis titles mentioned on the flap of this book, the publisher seems to have a sort of New Age bent, and certainly isn't a publisher of books on games; that's no coincidence. So books like this, that can serve as a beginners' book for learning the game (albeit not the best of books at teaching the game) but also give the reader lots of other reasons for caring about the game, would be welcome. Go: A Complete Introduction to the Game does a bit of that, but much more is possible. (The Europeans seem to have a bit of a leg up on the Americans on this: Die Mitte des Himmels also does a better job of putting go in a cultural context than any American book does; it doesn't have as much cultural info as this book does, but probably does a better job of teaching the game.) If anybody reading this is thinking about how to break into the English-language introductory go book market, that would be the tack that I would take.

david carlton <carlton@bactrian.org>

Last modified: Sun Aug 10 20:54:13 PDT 2003