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Paperback The Tale of Genji Book

ISBN: 0679729534

ISBN13: 9780679729532

The Tale of Genji

(Part of the  Series, The Tale of Genji (#1) Series, and The Tale of Genji Series)

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

In the eleventh century Murasaki Shikibu, a lady in the Heian court of Japan, wrote the world's first novel. But The Tale of Genji is no mere artifact. It is, rather, a lively and astonishingly nuanced portrait of a refined society where every dalliance is an act of political consequence, a play of characters whose inner lives are as rich and changeable as those imagined by Proust. Chief of these is "the shining Genji," the son of the emperor and...

Customer Reviews

3 ratings

The most elegant translation

The Tale of Genji boasts rights as the first novel ever written, but the road getting here has been rough. The novel is nearly a millenium old, and a translation usually has to go through two hands (the Japanese translator and the English) before we have the pleasure of reading. The first translation, by Arthur Waley, reads beautifully and still holds a place in many fans' hearts. It has also been liberally edited and sometimes loosely translated; one wonders how much of the original work remains. Two recent translations compete for top honors. The more recent one, by Royall Tyler, boasts helpful footnotes and background notes. It also takes great pains to render the novel in stylistic terms that are very close to the original. At the same time, it can be hard to follow at times, since many of Shikibu's authorial conventions have been preserved. Edward Siedensticker offers good accuracy, with prose that's elegant and precise. He really excels with the book's frequent poetry; his translations are the best in English. While his complete translation is true, he doesn't take Tyler's cares to translate Shikibu's stylistic quirks. His translation is, then, more immediately readable. But more footnotes wouldn't have been a hindrance. I admire Royal Tyler's achievement, but I enjoy Siedensticker's. Perhaps the best course of action is to read both (if you have the time). Otherwise, it may be a good idea to compare passages and see which you prefer. In either case, Siedensticker's poems are indispensible.

All things must pass.

The thousand-year-old TALE OF GENJI unfolds slowly over the course of more than a thousand pages, requiring patience on the part of a modern reader. The author, Murasaki Shikibu, was a lady of the Heian Court of Japan, and her poetic story paints a memorable portrait not only of the "vanished world" (p. xi) of medieval Japan, but of the impermanence of all life. "In this fleeting world where no dewdrop can linger in the autumn wind, why imagine us to be unlike the bending grasses" (p. 759)? Through Royall Tyler's excellent translation, Shikibu's characters remain as relevant as ever in all their worldly passions.THE TALE OF GENJI is actually two stories in one. Roughly the first 800 pages follow the life of "the Shining Prince" Genji, the son of Emperor Kiritsubo no Mikado and a low-ranking Intimate, Kiritsubo no Koi. The Emperor marries another woman (Fujitsubo), who closely resembles Genji's mother. Genji falls in love with the Empress, and they produce a son. While their impossible love affair is central to the novel, Genji has many other lovers, and many of his affairs end with unfortunate consequences. Ultimately, Genji discovers the love of his life in Fujitsubo's niece, Muraski, whom he eventually marries. Both characters die unexpectedly two thirds the way through Shikibu's novel, at which point the tale turns to Genji's grandchildren for the remaining 300 pages or so.Despite the fact that the TALE progresses at a gentler pace than modern novels, and despite the fact that digressions, parallel plots, and shifting viewpoints are common to Shikibu's TALE, THE TALE OF GENJI is nevertheless a real pleasure to read for its sustained ability to reveal what it means to live an impermanent existence with rather heroic passions.G. Merritt

This translation VS the new translation (2001)

So far I much prefer the 1973 (?) translation by Seidenstucker (whatever!). I read the first 7 or so chapters alternately until I decided the aforementioned was easier to read. The new translation might be "truer" to the original and I love the footnotes but it's difficult to figure out who exactly is talking (S. incorporates the information in the footnotes in more recent translation into the body of the text) and S. is a far more graceful writer. If you should be seized by the inclination the read this book, I strongly recommend reading "The World of the Shining Prince" (Morris) first. The genealogical charts alone are invaluable to understanding "Genji".

The Tale of Genji (2 Volumes) Mentions in Our Blog

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The Tale of Genji (2 Volumes) in 11 Women Authors Who Made Literary History
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The Tale of Genji (2 Volumes) in Trendsetting Literary Ladies
Trendsetting Literary Ladies
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • March 27, 2020

Did you know that the world’s first novel was written by a woman? Or that female authors had a hand in several literary genres, including sci-fi, dystopian, and rom-com? And guess who the world’s first billionaire writer was? Hint: Her most famous character’s initials are H.P. Read on to learn about history’s innovative literary ladies.

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