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The Tale of Genji Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1120 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition (July 12, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394735307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394735306
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Not only the world's first real novel, but one of its greatest."

-- Donald Keene, Columbia University"A. triumph of authenticity and readability."

-- Washington Post Book World

"[Seidensticker's] translation has the ring of authority."

-- The New York Times Book Review

From the Inside Flap

The Tale of Genji was written in the eleventh century by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady of the Heian court. It is universally recognized as the greatest masterpiece of Japanese prose narrative, perhaps the earliest true novel in the history of the world. Until now there has been no translation that is both complete and scrupulously faithful to the original text. Edward G. Seidensticker's masterly rendering was first published in two volumes in 1976 and immediately hailed as a classic of the translator's art. It is here presented in one unabridged volume, illustrated throughout by woodcuts taken from a 1650 Japanese edition of The Tale of Genji.

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Customer Reviews

This is a book that needs lots of time to read.
avid reader
It's about a troubled prince who is searching for the love of a mother by trying to love women both sexually and romantically.
Sarah
I highly recommend The Tale of Genji to anyone who likes a good book and has any interest in history or Japanese culture.
J. B. Zurn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

123 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Amazonian on January 1, 2006
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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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By J. B. Zurn on May 11, 2004
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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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
This excellent book, for me, opened up the rich and fascinating world of Heian Japan. The structure Murasaki Shikibu used in terms of plots and characters is great, leading the reader through many twists and turns in the life and loves of men and women of the court. Seidensticker does a wonderful job of translation, covering many things Waley neglected, and inserting helpful and informative footnotes. Altogether a simply fantastic book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Holly C. Patterson on March 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu is like a Heian period Soap Opera. This book follows Genji through his life and his many relationships. Although Genji is the main character, the book also explores many different subplots having to do with the people of the Heian court with whom Genji associates. The main focus of the story is Genji and his many love affairs. Genji is a beautiful and cultured man and many women are drawn to him. He takes many wives, but he also has affairs with many other women both inside and outside the Heian court. Having affairs outside the court is scandalous and he does this in secret. Every affair is different from the others. Each woman has something unique to offer Genji.

The book is composed of many different overlapping stories that complicate one another as the story progresses. Although Genji is the main focus, many other characters lives become part of the story. Relationships of all forms are explored through the characters. Secrets between family members are revealed. Men and women who are involved in extra marital affairs have secret children together. Men compete with each other for a certain woman's affections. People even become possessed by spirits and die. For the most part if you have seen it in a Soap Opera it has happened in this story.

This book was obviously written for a mature audience. The relationships are described in detail and the language, or prose, is intended for an adult reader. I think the author's intention was to draw you in to the characters' lives. Once the reader knows who the main characters are, she becomes engrossed in the interplay between the different characters. I feel the author accomplished what she set out to do.
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