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The Tale of Genji (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics) Hardcover – Abridged, January 11, 1993

4 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[The Tale of Genji is] not only the world’s first real novel,
but one of its greatest.” –Donald Keene, Columbia University

“Edward Seidensticker’s translation has the ring of authority.” –New York Times Book Review

“A triumph of authenticity and readability.” –Washington Post Book World

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Japanese
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Product Details

  • Series: Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics
  • Hardcover: 1224 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library; First Thus edition (January 11, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679417389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679417385
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 2.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #594,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This Kindle edition is a translation by Kencho Suematsu, NOT Arthur Waley, and I would not recommend it to anyone who wants to read The Tale of Genji. There are far far better translations available. The Kindle version is falsely labeled, in my opinion.
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Format: Hardcover
The Tale of Genji, and this (Seidensticker) translation, is without doubt one of the finest reading experiences one can possibly have. What I want to review is what the publisher has done with this book.
I purchased this copy in June 2001, and on the frontispiece it says 4th printing. There are so many printing errors in this book it mars what might otherwise have been a sublime reading experience. I will give you just one example: on page 113 a line reads:
"Then came Koremitsu's house, he would be called a lecher and a child theif [sic]."
Now this made no sense to me, either as a sentence or in the narrative context, so I consulted the abridged edition (which I also have). The line should have read:
"Then came Koremitsu's unsettling report. He must act. If he were to take her from her father's house, he would be called a lecher and a child thief."
That's a total of 14 words missing between "Koremitsu's" and "house".
This is the most serious error in the book, but there are many others, and I've only read 1/4th of the book so far. This Everyman Library edition, the publisher boasts, uses acid-free cream-wove paper with a sewn full cloth binding. It's a beautifully designed book. If only the publishers had given as much attention to the soul of this book as to its body, it might have been worth the price I paid for it.
Books should come with a warranty, really.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is not the translation advertised in the description; it is an older translation. Also this version is abridged, which should be noted in the description. If you're looking for a complete translation, this ain't it. :(
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Format: Paperback
This edition is actually the first volume of the series that makes up the complete Tale of Genji. After much anticipation, fuelled by books such as The Tale of Murasaki, I was ready to take on this giant of world literature. It was quite disappointing, but perhaps much of that was due to my strong personal dislike of the title character, Genji. Presented as a `shining prince', and the epitome of manhood, I found him to be a vain and childish character who was annoying in the extreme. So when the story is based on his adventures and accomplishments, it is bound to disappoint.
However, something strange happened with this book - by the end, I had decided to seek out the further volumes so as to complete the story. So Genji, annoying or otherwise, grows on the reader, and you feel compelled to find out what happened next. And this is the sign of a good book. And if you have any interest in Japanese literature, or Heian culture, this book is a must-read, as so much relates to it.
This is one of the `classic' translations, and is quite easy to understand. I would recommend having `A Reader's Guide to The Tale of Genji' by William Puette on hand while reading if you want to fully appreciate all that is going on.
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Format: Paperback
Initially I began reading the Tale of Genji after studying illustrations for it in an asian art class and hearing references to it in a Japanese history class. Two things struck me as I read it - 1) the timelessness of the novel, and 2) how the author's ability to develop characters grew even as she wrote it. It was incredibly thought provoking to read passages where the lovers wished that the moment could be preserved for a thousand years, and to realize that, in a way, it had. The novel takes you through the gamut of human experience, and you discover that a thousand years ago, human nature wasn't much different than it is today. For example, I was in stitches over one episode - when the protagonist couldn't have the lady he wanted, he managed to take her pet cat. It was so ridiculous, and yet could have been something right out of "Friends".
For me, the first third of the book was a struggle, even though I was quite interested in the historical descriptions. After that, I couldn't put it down. The characterization of the people gained depth and insight as the book went on. It was a delight to read, and I was sorry when it ended.
I chose the Seidensticker one-volume paperback over the Waley edition because it was unabridged, proported to be more true to the original story, and had woodblock illustrations from a 1650 edition. As for another reviewer commenting about the durability of the cover, I covered mine in clear contact paper right after I bought it, and it's as beautiful as new almost 5 years later. My only complaint is that the poetry seems to lose something in the translation. It seems that this may be due to differences between the Japanese and English languages, though, and perhaps may not be as much a translation issue.
I highly recommend The Tale of Genji to anyone who likes a good book and has any interest in history or Japanese culture. Their perseverence will be rewarded.
-JB Zurn, novice nipponophile
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The Tale of Genji (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics)
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