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The Tale of Genji: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) [Paperback]

Murasaki Shikibu , Royall Tyler
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 26 2002 014243714X 978-0142437148 Reprint

The original novel—a classic of Japanese and world literature and a stunningly beautiful story

Written in the eleventh century, this exquisite portrait of courtly life in medieval Japan is widely celebrated as the world’s first novel. Genji, the Shining Prince, is the son of an emperor. He is a passionate character whose tempestuous nature, family circumstances, love affairs, alliances, and shifting political fortunes form the core of this magnificent epic. Royall Tyler’s superior translation is detailed, poetic, and superbly true to the Japanese original while allowing the modern reader to appreciate it as a contemporary treasure. Supplemented with detailed notes, glossaries, character lists, and chronologies to help the reader navigate the multigenerational narrative, this comprehensive edition presents this ancient tale in the grand style that it deserves.
 
This Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition features French flaps and deckle-edged paper.



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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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In a certain reign (whose can it have been?) someone of no very great rank, among all His Majesty's Consorts and Intimates, enjoyed exceptional favor. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warm Thoughts in Winter's Chill Dec 22 2007
Format:Paperback
This is my favorite translation of The Tale of Genji. I feel though, that I must clarify my opinion on that, for it varies, depending on what kind of reader you are.

If you are a casual reader who wants to read this book simply out of interest, or a desire to build upon your stockpiled erudition, or you're an anime nerd who wants to learn more of Japan than just Gundam Wing, then this is NOT the translation for you. Read the Seidensticker translation.

If you love Japanese literature, or just literature in general, then read this one. If you don't mind spending a bit of extra time to comprehend everything, then read this one.

The difference between the two is this: the Seidensticker translation is very easy to understand and actually calls each character by their respective names. Each sentence tends to be very simple, as in "Genji was sad. He went to the shrine at Izu. There he met the Priestess."(not a quote) As for the Royall translation, he writes more poetically, so to capture the feeling of the text, but he also calls each character by their proffesional title, rather than their name, which changes depending on promotions or demotions, which occurs often. For example, Genji will be called the Grand Counselor in one chapter, and then called the Palace Minister in the next. Fortunately, Royall offers us a little 'Dramatis Personae' at the beginning of each chapter so as long as we read that before starting each new chapter, everything should be alright.

So, in summation, this is the best Genji translation as far as beauty in prose goes, but it's harder to understand.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best of both worlds Dec 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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5.0 out of 5 stars All things must pass. May 1 2004
Format:Paperback
The thousand-year-old TALE OF GENJI unfolds slowly over the course of more than a thousand pages, requiring patience on the part of a modern reader. The author, Murasaki Shikibu, was a lady of the Heian Court of Japan, and her poetic story paints a memorable portrait not only of the "vanished world" (p. xi) of medieval Japan, but of the impermanence of all life. "In this fleeting world where no dewdrop can linger in the autumn wind, why imagine us to be unlike the bending grasses" (p. 759)? Through Royall Tyler's excellent translation, Shikibu's characters remain as relevant as ever in all their worldly passions.
THE TALE OF GENJI is actually two stories in one. Roughly the first 800 pages follow the life of "the Shining Prince" Genji, the son of Emperor Kiritsubo no Mikado and a low-ranking Intimate, Kiritsubo no Koi. The Emperor marries another woman (Fujitsubo), who closely resembles Genji's mother. Genji falls in love with the Empress, and they produce a son. While their impossible love affair is central to the novel, Genji has many other lovers, and many of his affairs end with unfortunate consequences. Ultimately, Genji discovers the love of his life in Fujitsubo's niece, Muraski, whom he eventually marries. Both characters die unexpectedly two thirds the way through Shikibu's novel, at which point the tale turns to Genji's grandchildren for the remaining 300 pages or so.
Despite the fact that the TALE progresses at a gentler pace than modern novels, and despite the fact that digressions, parallel plots, and shifting viewpoints are common to Shikibu's TALE, THE TALE OF GENJI is nevertheless a real pleasure to read for its sustained ability to reveal what it means to live an impermanent existence with rather heroic passions.
G. Merritt
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