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The Tale of Genji Paperback – October 10, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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
Most Recent Customer Reviews
People tend to say it a "boring novel" or "not much action involved". I won't review it in that sense; it crossed the barrier of time and culture, criticizing its... Read morePublished 10 days ago by ArielM
"The Tale of Genji" is thought to be the first novel written in history, so the significance of that alone would save it from a one-star rating. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Riana
I had reached far too great an age before being pursuaded to read this masterwork. Fortunately, I had guidance from someone who was well-versed in the whole massive story of Genji... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Constant Reader
I remember reading The Tale of Genji on my note pad. However, my eyes would strain so I bought the book, and I can keep on reading.Published 13 months ago by StarFox 52
I had to read this book for a class. Murasaki Shikibu is a brilliant writer, and the translator did her a lot of justice. Read morePublished 13 months ago by sirochan
No commentary on the text- just wanted to warn other readers that this Kindle edition contains only perhaps the first 9 or so chapters of the Tale of Genji, of more than 30. Read morePublished 18 months ago by H. Ross
It's wonderful that the first novel ever was written by a woman-something to celebrate especially among women's groups as is local AAUW. Read morePublished 18 months ago by SKS
Guy doinks his step mom and has a baby, spends the rest of his time chasing around other women,.Published 18 months ago by RL