The Tale of Genji: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – Nov 26 2002
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“[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
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
The strength of this translation is the introductory information that provides necessary background of both the text and the world that Genji inhabits. Read morePublished on Dec 31 2003 by Jadepearl
The "Tale of Genji" was written one thousand years ago at the court of the Emperor of Japan. It has to be said, this book will not appeal to everyone. Read morePublished on Oct. 19 2003 by kallan
Having read a few of the great Chinese works (Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of the Marsh, Journey to the West), I had expected this tale of the Japanese hero-prince Genji to be a tale of... Read morePublished on Sept. 11 2003 by Adrian Jenkins