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The Tale of Genji (unabridged) Hardcover – July 1, 2015

3.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This new version by Dennis Washburn, a professor at Dartmouth, falls somewhere between Seidensticker’s reader-friendly translation and Tyler’s more stringently literal one, resulting in a fluid, elegant rendition.” (Washington Post)

“This is the Washburn Tale of Genji from start to finish: immensely scholarly but also, somehow, uncannily readable, helpful without being pedantic, clarifying without ever simplifying…. It’s an amazingly cheering performance, a Genji to last a century.” (Open Letters Monthly)

“Murasaki watched the sexual maneuverings, the social plots, the marital politics, the swirl of slights and flatteries that went on around her, with the keen, sometimes sardonic, and always worldly eyes of a medieval Jane Austen.” (The New Yorker)

“In Dennis Washburn’s new translation of The Tale of Genji, lovers of novels will have the literary experience denied them until now: for hours and weeks at a time they will be able to sink into the dark, titillating, sexy, sad, enraging, absorbing world of this, the world’s first novel, written by Murasaki Shikibu, the imaginative genius court woman of eleventh-century Japan. Washburn eliminates the gap in centuries between us and that long-lost world, and preserves for us the freshness of vision and voice of that great writer from long ago and her Proustian chronicling of the darkening beauty of a world in decline, a world depleted of male erotic power and female depredation, of the tortures of jealousy and the frailness of art and beauty to console.” (Alan Tansman, University of California at Berkeley)

“A formidable accomplishment. The language is beautiful, the footnotes are helpful yet unobtrusive: Washburn has performed a great service by making this groundbreaking novel, written in the eleventh century, available to the English-speaking world in a version worthy of the Japanese masterpiece.” (Edith Grossman)

“Retranslations of a classic are always reason to celebrate. All the more so when it’s the Genji, with all its complex characters and unforgettable episodes. One tries to begin logically, from the first page, but can’t resist flipping ahead to locate favorite scenes and see how they are imagined anew. . . . A fresh and invaluable Tale of Genji for both those of us reuniting with a familiar friend and those encountering it for the very first time.” (Valerie Henitiuk, editor-in-chief, Translation Studies, and author of Worlding Sei Shônagon: The Pillow Book in Translation)

“Award-winning translator Dennis Washburn’s lucid and accessible rendering will introduce new readers to the entrancing narrative world of this great classic.” (David Lurie, Columbia University)

About the Author

Dennis Washburn is Jane and Raphael Bernstein Professor in Asian Studies at Dartmouth College. He holds a Ph.D. from Yale University in Japanese language and literature. He lives in Hanover, New Hampshire.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1360 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton; 1st edition (July 1, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393047873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393047875
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 2.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been in love with The Tale of Genji for more than forty years, having first encountered it through Arthur Waley’s revered translation. As I learned more about Japanese culture and literature however, I began to feel Waley’s version, wonderful as it is, did not sufficiently reflect the Japanese sensitivities so important to the enjoyment and understanding of this 11th century tale of the life and loves of the eponymous hero—-the Heian era’s Shining Prince. Hence when Edward Seidensticker’s translation appeared (1976), it became my preferred version.

In 2002 came Royall Tyler’s effort (see my review elsewhere on Amazon).

Now comes the gift of a new translation, this one by Dartmouth professor of Asian Studies Dennis Washburn. In his enlightening introduction, Washburn states his overriding concern for “clarity and accessibility” and in this he has definitely succeeded.

Washburn does the first-time reader of Genji the favor of minimizing footnotes by including and explaining obscure details within the main text. He also uses the device of using italics to separate characters’ thoughts from their actions or statements. I have not quite finished reading the entire novel—-this version comes to 1,320 pages—-with no list of characters or illustrations—-but the few chapters I have sampled are certainly wordier than Seidensticker’s—-and in many instances, also easier to comprehend.

My quibbles—-if I may be so ungrateful as to mention them—-have to do mainly with style and word choice. While Seidensticker is terse, he is also more elegant. This is particularly true with the poetry that is integral to the novel.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This afternoon I downloaded the Kindle version of The Tale of Genji that is offered on this Amazon page. It is most definitely the new translation of the book made by Dennis Washburn and published by W.W.Norton in July of 2015. I can't explain why earlier reviewers had a different experience, except that perhaps Amazon realized it had made a mistake and has since fixed it.

$2.85 for Washburn's translation is an incredible bargain and the Kindle version is much easier to read, considering the immense bulk of the printed volume, especially for those of us who have cats.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There's an argument as to whether this book or Don Quixote is literally the first novel ever written. It's one or the other but scholarly opinions differ. There are many translations of both- one thing this latest translation of Genji does is really immerse the reader in the time place and detail of ancient japan. I prefer its style to the other translations of this book that I've read- and maybe you will too.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hate this because the Kindle ed. of what is supposed to be the new Washburn translation is actually the Dover Thrift Edition by the first translator, Arthur Waley, pub. 1926-33. False advertising or computer mixup by Amazon? Well, at only $2.98 the Dover is a cheap ebook. BTW the 1976 Edward G. Seidensticker translation is available as a zip file from Oxford Text Archive: http://ota.ahds.ac.uk/headers/2245.xml The perplexed should start with Wikipedia's article on Genji (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tale_of_Genji) and Ian Buruma's long review of Genji on the occasion of the Washburn translation: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-sensualist-books-buruma
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a copy of The Tale of Genji, look no further. This modern translation done in 2015 is the version you want. Here is the concluding quote by Steve Donoghue who wrote a great review of this translation with side-by-side comparisons of previous translations.

"This is the Washburn Tale of Genji from start to finish: immensely scholarly but also, somehow, uncannily readable, helpful without being pedantic, clarifying without ever simplifying. Gone are the Edwardian paraphrases of Arthur Waley; gone too is the somewhat flat-footed gait of the Edward Seidensticker; and the occasionally forbidding purity of the Royall Tyler is softened and colored in around the edges. It’s an amazingly cheering performance, a Genji to last a century. And if W.W. Norton should see fit to create an electronic version, your poor terrified metacarpals will scarcely notice the pages flying by."

You can find the whole review here:

http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/the-book-and-the-boy/
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