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The Tale of Genji: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – Deckle Edge, November 26, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Widely recognized as the world's first novel, as well as one of its best, the 11th-century tale of Genji the shining prince has been painstakingly and tenderly translated by Tyler, a retired professor of Japanese language and literature. Genji, the son of an emperor by one of his "Intimates" and preternaturally blessed with beauty and charm, is the center of this two-volume opus though he and his heroine die some two-thirds into the book which details both his political fortunes and his many amorous adventures. Chronicling some 75 years of court life with a dizzyingly large cast of characters, it is an epic narrative; it is also minutely attentive to particulars of character, setting, emotion even costume. While two complete English translations exist (Arthur Waley's of 1933 and Edward Seidensticker's of 1976), Tyler clearly intends his to be the definitive one. It is richer, fuller and more complicated than the others indeed, Tyler's fidelity to the bygone Japanese custom of not writing proper names can sometimes make it difficult, for example, to determine which of Genji's myriad lovers he is thinking about. Unlike Waley's translation, Tyler's is unexpurgated; unlike Seidensticker's, his is heavily annotated. New line drawings of Japanese architecture and activity complement the text, while character lists at chapter beginnings, a plot summary at the conclusion and two glossaries one of offices and titles, the other of general terms orient the reader in a multigenerational and unfamiliar world. Tyler's formality of tone (contrast Seidensticker's anachronistic "He could see her point" to Tyler's simple "He sympathized") offers readers a more graceful, convincing rendering of this 1,000-year-old masterpiece. Scholars and novices alike should be pleased. 6-city translator tour. (Oct. 15)Forecast: This massive project involved a whole team at Viking (see PW Interview with editor Wendy Wolf, Aug. 20). The 20,000-copy first printing may seem ambitious, but the attractive boxed edition and landmark translation effort should convince a substantial number of readers to finally add this classic to their collections.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Written in the 11th century, Lady Murasaki's account of court life in Heian Japan stands as one of the undisputed monuments of world literature and one of the first novels in the modern sense of the term. Stretching over several generations, it focuses on the Shining Prince, his defendants, and their shifting fortunes. Much of the substance of the novel resides in the layers and subtle nuances of etiquette, gesture, and ritual. There are two previous English translations available in both full and abridged forms, Arthur Waley's (1933) and Edward Seidensticker's (1976). Waley's efforts are groundbreaking, though they distort the work's form and make Genji into an Edwardian gentleman. Seidensticker's translation is solid, though it often simplifies the syntax. Tyler, who taught Japanese language and literature for many years at the Australian National University, offers a version that effectively captures the indirection and shades of Murasaki's court language. Tyler also includes a series of appendixes, explaining clothing, colors, and poetic allusions, as well as a general glossary. A major contribution to our understanding of world literature; highly recommended. T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah, GA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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The story follows a son of the emperor (his name is Genji) as he grows up from a small boy to a middle aged man and constantly advances in the royal hierarchy and has many erotic adventures on the side. Have no doubt: Genji is hard on his lovers. He changes his mind, he demands too much, he chases one woman only to find one who is better placed and so he chases her instead. About two thirds of the way through the book Genji dies, and the story passes on to his descendants. This last part of the book is really interesting, and though I had been afraid I would be bored I was hooked for the last few hundred pages of the story. The tale simply comes to an abrupt hald, and it is clear than there is either more of the story to be discovered in a dusty attic somewhere, or Lady Murasaki died before completing the book.
Overall I am glad I read this book. Scattered throughout the book are over 700 little love poems, called "tanka" in Japanese. These are a delight to read, and I go back and read some of them from time to time. I didn't really like Genji, but I did like his story and especially the poems. I have written my own "tanka" for stories I've been working on, and I write love poems to women I'm interested in, too. May you find "The Tale of Genji" to be inspiration and fun!
On the one hand there is the plot, to the extent that there is one. This is quite straightforward: pampered and refined noblemen falling hopelessly in love and pining away with a lot of sighing and poetry. On the other hand, there is the style. That's a trifle more challenging.
This is a book of eleven hundred pages with over four hundred characters, almost never referred to by name, only titles that change over time. You will not be able to keep track of them, but that's okay, since the story continues seemingly independent of its characters. There is no central plot, there is no clear structure, there is no clear ending. The book has a leisurely pace, ripe with descriptions of clothing, fragrance, calligraphy and paper.
Simply put, you do not read the "tale of Genji", you experience it. You sink into an armchair and let the words wash over you, transporting you into a time when there were never any hurry, any crassness or vulgarity. If that is your idea of a good book, buy this one. If that seems a little heavy, read "the journey to the west" instead.