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The Tale of Genji Paperback – Aug 24 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (Aug. 24 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486414159
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486414157
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #157,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“[The Tale of Genji is] not only the world’s first real novel,
but one of its greatest.” –Donald Keene, Columbia University

“Edward Seidensticker’s translation has the ring of authority.” –New York Times Book Review

“A triumph of authenticity and readability.” –Washington Post Book World --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

In the eleventh century Murasaki Shikibu, a lady in the Heian court of Japan, wrote the world's first novel. But The Tale of Genji is no mere artifact. It is, rather, a lively and astonishingly nuanced portrait of a refined society where every dalliance is an act of political consequence, a play of characters whose inner lives are as rich and changeable as those imagined by Proust. Chief of these is "the shining Genji," the son of the emperor and a man whose passionate impulses create great turmoil in his world and very nearly destroy him. This edition, recognized as the finest version in English, contains a dozen chapters from early in the book, carefully chosen by the translator, Edward G. Seidensticker, with an introduction explaining the selection. It is illustrated throughout with woodcuts from a seventeenth-century edition.

"From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
not realizing that there were about four versions of "The Tale of Genji" out there, i bought the version translated by Kencho i realize i shouldve gotten the Seidensticker or the Tyler version. however, i enjoyed it nonetheless.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
The Tale of Genji, or Genji monogatari, was written in the tenth century by Shikibu Murasaki. In it, there is a deep look at the culture and way of life of the highest classes in Heian-era Japan.
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.
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By A Customer on Nov. 10 2001
Format: Hardcover
I love The Tale of Genji, but this edition has its flaws.
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. :)
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