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The Tale of Genji: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – November 26, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Murasaki Shikibu, born in 978, was a member of Japan's Fujiwara clan, which ruled behind the scenes during the Heian Period by providing the brides and courtesans of all the emperors. Lady Murasaki's rare literary talent, particularly her skill as a poet, secured her a place in the court of Empress Akiko. After the death of her husband, she cloistered herself to study Buddhism, raise her daughter, and write the world's first novel Genji Monogatari, the tale of the shining Prince Genji.


Royall Tyler was born in London, England, and grew up in Massachusetts, England, Washington D.C., and Paris. He has a B.A. in Far Eastern Languages from Harvard, and an M.A. in Japanese History and Ph. D. in Japanese literature from Columbia University. He has taught Japanese language and culture at, among other places, Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Oslo, in Norway. Beginning in 1990, he taught at the Australian National University, in Canberra, from which he retired at the end of 2000. He will spend the American academic year 2001-02 as a Visiting Professor at Harvard.

Royall Tyler and his wife Susan live in a rammed earth house on 100 acres in the bush about seventy miles from Canberra, where they breed alpacas as a hobby.

Royall Tyler’s previous works include Japanese Noh Dramas, a selection and translation of Noh plays published by Penguin; Japanese Tales and French Folktales, anthologies published by Pantheon; and The Miracles of the Kasuga Deity, a study of a medieval Japanese cult published by Columbia University Press.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1216 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (November 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014243714X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437148
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read Japanese literature.
MARIA
Although the story is about Genji, the memorable female characters far outnumber the male ones.
claire de lune
Just as in Seidensticker's translation, there are many beautiful illustrations.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

275 of 283 people found the following review helpful By claire de lune on December 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
I've read all three translations of The Tale of Genji. For those who don't know there are three translations so far, by Arthur Waley, Edward Seidensticker and this one by Taylor. All of them have their flaws. Waley's translation is known for being a beautifully written, but very freely translated, so free that he left out several chapters. Where Seidensticker's translation is known for being more accurate but the language is not as beautiful. Of all three I think I prefer Taylor's. In addition to the story, he gives an extensive description of the culture and a listing of the Japanese names of the characters which is very helpful for figuring out the intricate details of rank and social position. This may be a bit too much information for those who don't know very much about Heian culture.
For those who don't know much about the plot, the Tale of Genji is divided into two almost completely separate stories. The first part of the story is about Prince Genji, the son of the emperor and a low ranking consort who dies due to her rivals' jealousy. The emperor griefstricken marries another much younger and higher born woman who looks very much like Genji's mother, who Genji falls in love with. Their doomed love affair and its consequences is at the center of this novel. However Genji has many other love affairs some of them with very destructive consequences. Genji's story is both tragic and also light hearted at times as well. Although the story is about Genji, the memorable female characters far outnumber the male ones. Heian Japan was a mostly matrilocal society, where the court was controlled by the grandfather or the father-in-law of the emperor.
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112 of 115 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
This novel is, quite simply, my favorite of all books. It has sparked a love for Japanese culture that has persisted from my first reading of it in the mid-1970s.
I have read the entirety of all three of the complete English translations. To my mind, Royall Tyler's is clearly the best of the lot. Even though I can't compare it to the original, given what I know about Heian culture and the other reading I've done, this version somehow seems to capture the spirit of the age beyond what the others achieved. I vastly prefer the way Tyler has approached the matter of identifying the characters, for example. He uses their courtly titles, even though those change during the course of the story. He manages to keep the reader oriented by the straightforward listing of characters that appears at the beginning of each chapter.
Combined with Tyler's other strategies, I feel closer to experiencing the story the way I imagine it was experienced by Murasaki Shikubu's contemporaries. To me this suggests an approach to translation that strives to come to terms with what the text demands; it better conveys the inherent nature and complexity of the prevailing style. Yet Tyler's fluency as a writer nonetheless draws one deep into a character-based story.
I could go on and on, as this novel is one of my great loves. But I'll simply say it's an essential read and that this is the essential translation.
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297 of 344 people found the following review helpful By Steven E. Bradbury on August 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
Having loved both the Arthur Waley and Edward Seidensticker versions of The Tale of Genji as well as the bits and pieces of Murasaki Shikibu's classical Japanese I had hammered through as a graduate student in East Asian studies, I was thrilled to hear that someone had done a "stunning" new translation of this work I and so many other Genji fans regard as one of the greatest "novels" ever written. Fortunately, a friend of mine, who is also a Genji fan, had the foresight to forward me some random passages of the Tyler version before I actually shelled out any money. In comparing these quotes to the Waley and Seidensticker versions I was much surprised to find that the Tyler translation comes up short in almost every regard, and that even Seidensticker's version, engaging as it is, is somewhat disappointing. Compare their respective translations of this short passage from a scene in Chapter Five ("Murasaki"), where Genji is visiting a Buddhist monastery in the mountains:

Waley's version:
Genji felt very disconsolate. It had begun to rain; a cold wind blew across the hill, carrying with it the sound of a waterfall--audible till then as a gentle intermittent plashing, but now a mighty roar; and with it, somnolently rising and falling, mingled the monotonous chanting of the scriptures. Even the most unimpressionable nature would have been plunged into melancholy by such surroundings. How much the more so Prince Genji, as he lay sleepless on his bed, continually planning and counter-planning.

Seidensticker's version:
Genji was not feeling well. A shower passed on a chilly mountain wind, and the sound of the waterfall was higher. Intermittently came a rather sleepy voice, solemn and somehow ominous, reading a sacred text.
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Jadepearl VINE VOICE on December 31, 2003
Format: Paperback
The strength of this translation is the introductory information that provides necessary background of both the text and the world that Genji inhabits. Much more than either the Waley and the Seidensticker versions and the footnotes are copious as well. Which makes this translation good for students and classroom study. I would still recommend Ivan Morris' book, _The World of the Shining Prince_ as supplemental information about Heian Japan but Tyler has provided a very good start with his work including very useful genealogical charts.
The illustrations are generous and found throughout the book. Seidensticker had larger illustrations but slightyly less of them whereas Tyler has opted for smaller. One of the flaws of this particular version is the fact that the illustrations are not done as well as the Seidensticker 2 volume set or even the one volume Knopf version. This flaw I place more due to the publisher who has not printed the text as cleanly e.g., ink blots and slight blurring of illustrations and incomplete pressing, as I would have expected. This flaw is found in the more expensive 2 volume hard back set as well. Another thing to consider in the paperback version is the the binding is not the best and will not stand to brutal backpack/book bag wear.
The more useful study volume is definitely Tyler's with his chronology, geneaology charts, informative introduction, footnotes, clothing and color background, offices and titles, and summary of poetic allusions.
It is a very good addition to the collection but do give a swing through both the Waley and the Seidensticker translations as well. Waley for the beautiful language (missing various chapeters) and the Seidensticker (obsessively correct). The rare 19th century partial translation done at Oxford by a Japanese student is a moot issue though interesting for the collection.
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