The Tale of Genji Paperback – Jul 12 1978
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"Not only the world's first real novel, but one of its greatest."
-- Donald Keene, Columbia University"A. triumph of authenticity and readability."
-- Washington Post Book World
"[Seidensticker's] translation has the ring of authority."
-- The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Murasaki Shikibu, a lady in the Heian court of Japan, is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji–written in the eleventh century and universally recognized as the greatest masterpiece of Japanese prose narrative and possibly the earliest true novel in the history of the world.
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Top Customer Reviews
at first, when i started reading this book, i thought,"this story..isnt it about 54 volumes or so? this book is horribly thin." and the language is pretty hard to understand. i had to go back at least twice per page to understand it mostly, not even fully. however, once i got used to the language used, it was very easy to understand the rest. reading pages 1-approx. 10 took a couple of days, but getting used to it had pages 11-90 whizzed through. the story angers me at parts, but that proves that it is a good story. :) i recommend it.
since i have recently gotten into the japanese culture, reading this tale was at the top of my to-do list. having read Memoirs of a Geisha [which was a wonderful story as well..i give it 5 stars], i was dying to read some more about the fascinating japanese culture. this book is a great addition, but i think i will have to buy at least another version to fully appreciate this story.
The tale itself is about the 'shining prince'; Genji. Son of the emperor and one of his lowest consorts, Genji is fated to be one of the most important men of the age, but never able to truly ascend to royalty. This story, all thousand plus pages of it, details his life full of music, poetry, and efforts to win the hand of various ladies.
While starting out very episodic, Genji soon turns into a more refined tale, when all the threads of story come together to create surprising relations and events that will delight the imagination in their color and depth. By the end of the book, you will have lived through so much of the characters lives that each person comes into their own, and you cannot help but hope that all will end well.
I will say, however, that this book is somewhat difficult to get into for the uninitiated. There's much in the way of allusion to religion of the day (be it Shinto or Buddhism), and of customs that are barely mentioned due to being so commonplace at the time. As such, I would suggest something to introduce people to the Heian culture.
My first and best suggestion would be The Tale of Murasaki, written by Liza Dalby. It's a diary of the author of Genji, Shikibu Murasaki, pieced together from poems and the real diary, and filled in with further guesses as to her life. Compared to Genji, it is very approachable, and makes reading this story even easier.
I cannot recommend Genji enough, being quite possibly the first novel in the world, and certainly one of the best. For anyone with an interest in Japanese history, well-written romance, or just the best of the written word, Genji is sure to delight.
The hardcover is easily stained, and the black center easily rubs off and gets everywhere, not to mention it makes the book look incredibly beat up. (if you think the paperback is a solution, don't. A paperback of this size shouldn't even be touched.) I've only had mine for a year and it already looks like I've owned it for twenty. It isn't like I trashed it either - I always take very good care of my books.
I'm rather ambivalent about the quality of the translation. On the one hand, having read Waley's translation, Seidenstickers seems to be the one that is truer to Murasaki's original - he adds no extra language to what she was trying to say - however I have come across a few sentences that are obviously faulted, as they make absolutely no sense. Being very few in number, it hardly presents a problem, but never the less, it can cause some minor confusion.
Now, the story itself. The Tale of Genji is over 1000 years old. I must say it is simply fascinating just to own a copy of a piece of history. The Tale of Genji is incredibly captivating and haunting, beautiful and at times difficult to follow - but that makes it all the more enjoyable. You almost have to study it if you wish to fully understand it - and I'm a scholarly type, so I at least find that enjoyable.
All I would really say in warning is that you should have at least a bit of an understanding of Japanese and ancient Japanese culture - because the behavior of the characters, particularly the men, might rub the average westerner the wrong way.
The poor durability of the cover and the few sentence flawes forced me to take off a star. At least the sentences don't make any real difference, or it would be horrid. I myself plan to own all the translations of the Tale of Genji, so this is a must. And even if you are not, it is not a bad buy at all. Just make sure you take extra, extra care of it. :)
Most recent customer reviews
No word of a lie, I don't think I have ever read a more boring book in my entire life. Having lived in Japan for several years, I thought this book might shed some light on... Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2013 by Adamo
I had heard about the Tale of Genji for years; finally read it. The Seidensticker translation is a triumph; his introduction a valuable aid to looking so far across time and... Read morePublished on April 15 2009 by japanophile
This book has been so popular for centuries in Japan. The story takes places in the ancient capital city of Kyoto where so many nobles and richs were living all together. Read morePublished on Feb. 1 2008 by M.Y.
Initially I began reading the Tale of Genji after studying illustrations for it in an asian art class and hearing references to it in a Japanese history class. Read morePublished on May 11 2004 by J. B. Zurn
At first you think its "Memoirs of a Geisha", but this one has far too many details for that. Its court life in Japan with all its back stabbing rivalries. Read morePublished on June 10 2002 by Mom of 1
Anyone who hasn't read Genji in some form is doing themselves a great disservice. If you can't read Japanese, grab the nearest translation. Read morePublished on March 25 2002 by Mary Em
The Tale of Genji is a truly impressive book. It is, as the description states, "widely acknowledged as the world's first novel. Read morePublished on Aug. 29 2001 by Steve Thompson
The Tale of Genji, and this (Seidensticker) translation, is without doubt one of the finest reading experiences one can possibly have. Read morePublished on June 23 2001 by Immanuel A. Magalit