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The Tale of Genji [Paperback]

Shikibu Murasaki
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 12 1978
The Tale of Genji was written in the eleventh century by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady of the Heian court. It is universally recognized as the greatest masterpiece of Japanese prose narrative, perhaps the earliest true novel in the history of the world. Until now there has been no translation that is both complete and scrupulously faithful to the original text. Edward G. Seidensticker's masterly rendering was first published in two volumes in 1976 and immediately hailed as a classic of the translator's art. It is here presented in one unabridged volume, illustrated throughout by woodcuts taken from a 1650 Japanese edition of The Tale of Genji.

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Review

"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 Genjiwritten 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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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This translation VS the new translation (2001) Nov. 25 2001
By A Customer
So far I much prefer the 1973 (?) translation by Seidenstucker (whatever!). I read the first 7 or so chapters alternately until I decided the aforementioned was easier to read. The new translation might be "truer" to the original and I love the footnotes but it's difficult to figure out who exactly is talking (S. incorporates the information in the footnotes in more recent translation into the body of the text) and S. is a far more graceful writer. If you should be seized by the inclination the read this book, I strongly recommend reading "The World of the Shining Prince" (Morris) first. The genealogical charts alone are invaluable to understanding "Genji".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Luminous May 22 2000
By A Customer
It has been said that in addition to being the world's first novel, Genji is one of its greatest. I simply could not agree more. Although I had to read Genji twice(once with Seidenstcker, once with Waley) to understand the structure of the novel, it definitely was not a waste of time. Murasaki weaves a complex web of fate and personality flaws as well as human passions, and the result is not only a romance novel, but also a psychological study. Those who would argue that the characters are underdeveloped have not read this book closely enough. Although Genji may come off as a free-wheeling playboy at first, the reader must keep in mind that at this time this book was written, it was not unusual at all for highly born noblemen to have more than one wife. Genji genuinely loves all the women he encounters, and this makes him unusual.
Many people might be surprised that although Genji was written by a woman, it focuses almost exclusively on men--first Genji, then his two "sons" (one natural, one adopted). However, look closely at the characters of Murasaki and the Akashi lady, as well as Genji's stepmother and several other ladies throughout the course of the novel. They indirectly control the course of the lives of the men around them.
The Tale of Genji should be read by every serious student of literature, as it is the first novel. However, that distinction is the least of the book's numerous merits.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting March 2 2000
of all the ways of judging a book (or a film, or any other art-form, for that matter) here is a method i recommend. (1) start the book. (2) finish the book. (3) watch what happens. if you're still thinking about the book 3 months later you could say it was a good book. a very good book. if you're still thinking about it 12 months later, well, you have something very special on your hands. if you're still thinking of the book YEARS later, congratulations, you have a classic. which brings us to "Genji." have to admit, at first i was daunted by its size and complexity (puette's guide is a must). have to admit, i didn't particularly admire the main character much, either. have to admit, there were times i got bored. have to admit, i fell in love with murasaki (what a woman!). and finally, have to admit, i was glad to finally put it down, about 2 or 3 months after picking the thing up. but, of course, in a sense i never really put it down, because the damn thing keeps going through my head! and as time goes by i miss my "friends." i even miss that old hornbag genji!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very intriguing, very fascinating..... June 29 1999
By A Customer
Unfortunately I read the Italian transalation, which has not been prepared referring to the original Japanese text, but to the English translations. Indeed in Italy we have only a translator's translation at our disposal! However, the novel is extremely fascinating, you really take part to the plot, and you are sorry when you finish reading. The story could have gone on and on. I do not share the view that Genji was a playboy. This opinion is prejudiced by our views as to personal relationship, which are of course very different. We cannot judge past ethics and morals with our ideas.
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5.0 out of 5 stars simply fantastic. Aug. 21 1999
By A Customer
This excellent book, for me, opened up the rich and fascinating world of Heian Japan. The structure Murasaki Shikibu used in terms of plots and characters is great, leading the reader through many twists and turns in the life and loves of men and women of the court. Seidensticker does a wonderful job of translation, covering many things Waley neglected, and inserting helpful and informative footnotes. Altogether a simply fantastic book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars On a side note June 9 2000
By A Customer
Many people may not notice, but with close consideration of the history of 11th century Japan one realizes that this book is a satire on the life of the "elite" not just an account of society. Needless to say this book is all that is said above and more.
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