Jan Jiráň: The Monkey King / Zdeněk Sklenář

In 2020, Jan Jiráň wrote verses to accompany the concertina format book The Monkey King originally published in 1961 with illustrations by Zdeněk Sklenář.
The Monkey King, Sun Wukong, is the greatest magician in the world – a master of transformation, sorcery and surprises. He was the first to make a magic staff. He is mischievous, cunning, cleverly humorous, quick-witted, daring, and fearless. The adventures of the Monkey King and his friends are popular with both young and old around the world.
Jan Jiráň was so captivated by the Monkey King’s adventures and the accompanying illustrations by Zdeněk Sklenář that he re-narrated the story for children. At first, it was in the form of two audiobooks: How the Monkey King Sun Wukong Became Immortal (2011) and The Monkey King (on 4 CDs, 2014). This was followed by the book The Monkey King in 2016, which received two awards in 2017 – 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 of 2016 competition. Now, it has also been published in the form of a entertaining concertina format book.
The Monkey King started out as an unpredictable rascal, savage, and rogue. Buddha rightfully punished him for his misdeeds, and he was chained under the Mountain of Five Elements. The Monkey King learned his lesson from this punishment, mending his ways to become the courageous and faithful protector of his teacher, the Tang monk Tripitaka. He, Pigsy and the Sand Monk travel to the Western Paradise to retrieve the holy sutras. Along the way, they overcome nine times nine dangers, and ultimately acquire the genuine holy scripts.
The story is based on one of the most famous classical Chinese novels of all time, which was written towards the end of the sixteenth century during the Ming Dynasty and entitled Journey to the West. As far as the Czech public is concerned, this story was first introduced in 1961 under the title of The Monkey King as translated into Czech by Zdenka Novotná-Heřmanová and accompanied by the unforgettable illustrations by the painter Zdeněk Sklenář. This artist was interested in and studied Chinese culture over the course of his entire life. In 1955, he spent three months in China, where he travelled as the lead graphic artist for a travelling exhibition of Czechoslovak culture. This even further intensified and marked the peak of the inspiration that had followed him since childhood, and led to the creation of some of the most noteworthy European works of art of the twentieth century.

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