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The Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) Paperback – 24 Apr 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1216 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (24 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014243714X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437148
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 5.3 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"["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 (c. 970-1015) was a member of one of the most powerful dynasties in Japan and the author of a diary which reveals much about court life in Japan. Royall Tyler taught Japanese religion and literature at the Australian National University and has published widely on Japanese literature. He translated Japanese No Dramas for Penguin Classics.

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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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By J. R. P. Wigman on 11 May 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recently bought this Japanese classic and if you know how many pages it encompasses, you will not be surprised that I haven't finished it yet - for it takes quite some time to read it, let alone take it all in, especially since the story is set and written in a remote past and is culturally unfamiliar.
And yet - I love it already. It's been described as the first psychological novel, and it's easy to see why. The characters in the book aren't always very recognisable for us in terms of morality or philosophy, but I find them all very human and likeable. The book is infused with 'thinking' (like discussions on relationships and one's position in life) and an important feature is poetry: the main character Genji receives and dispatches a lot of subtle poetry (2 lines at a time) that emphasises the loftiness and grandeur of the whole work.

As I know only this translation I'm not able to tell how much of the appeal of "Genji" for the modern reader can be attributed to the translator, but clearly he has done an excellent job: it is all very, very readable and the notes are all very informative and give insight into what would otherwise be obscure references and details. And I love the physical side of the book as well: it is hefty, the paper used is pleasing to touch, many japanese style drawings enliven and instruct the reader and the whole layout exudes a refinement that supports the contents.

In short: a magnificent book in many ways. And I'm sure that if you pick up this classic you'll be pleasantly surprised.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By loz81904 on 24 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have read The Tale of Genji (on kindle) as part of my journey through '1001 books to read...' and I can truly understand its place in this reference guide to 'great' literature. This is a HUGE text, but that will soon be forgotten as you get swept away by the characters, emotions and events- longing to know what will happen next. I reached the conclusion of the tale (a lot quicker than expected and) with real regret that I could no longer continue enjoying the story. I will say it is well worth trying to set aside any of your cultural ideologies before starting this text, and as a reward you will be given a breath-taking insight into the fascinating world of the medieval Japanese court and culture, with well-researched and accessible guidance from Tyler (this is the only edition I have read so cannot compare it with others.)Shikibu has enriched her narrative with flawlessly vivid descriptions of customs, beliefs, ceremonies and costumes, bringing the characters and events to life.
Although The Tale of Genji can be regarded as 'unconventional' for those of us used to relatively modern novels, it is without doubt worth reading, and I will be enjoying the 'book' again soon.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Samuel J. Parkinson on 3 July 2013
Format: Paperback
Genji is a difficult book to review, if only because it is so huge. But this is one of the world's first novels, and so emotionally powerful, so wistful and beautiful, that it should be far better known that it is.
It's the story of a son of the Emperor, of his many loves, his exile, his friendships, his great passions firstly for imperial consort fujitsubo and then for his wife, and finally the story of his descendants. It is slow moving, like the culture it came from, more interested in poetry, music and beauty than in drama. Despite Genji being for many years the effective ruler of Japan, it is totally uninterested in politics - beauty and aesthetics are the pursuit of the true gentleman.
The setting is truly alien. Marriage customs are perhaps the strangest - sexist, uncommitted, and likely to leave women in sad, poor and lonely old age. While this takes some getting used to, the Tale draws you in, so that you learn see all these strange customs from the inside. You become more sympathetic than you could imagine.
It's the mood that is most pervasive - the love of beauty, combined with the (vaguely Buddhist) awareness that everything is passing away, that everything is temporary, that even beauty will pass away like the cherry blossoms in the wind.
Some reviewers have slated this edition. I cannot understand this. It is stunning - from the really beautiful, quality production, which is perfect for the book, through to the translation and the notes. I cannot read Japanese, but the style of this one is stunning. It seems to capture the elegiac world, and to do a brilliant job of translating the strange, unspecific language, which avoids saying anything concrete and is always ambiguous. The result is a drifting, relaxed, peaceful style.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By FrightenedRat on 2 Oct. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The Tale of Genji simply cannot be understood in English translation without the aid of explanatory notes. There is no one-to-one mapping between the Japanese and English words: a single Japanese word will often have multiple meanings. The poetry deliberately plays on these multiple meanings, but also relies on the reader being aware of further references and associations (for example, references to phrases from other poems which were widely read and known within the culture). Royall Tyler provides fascinating footnotes which illuminate the many layers of meaning behind the poetry exchanges which form a central part of the book. Without the wealth of Tyler's meticulous research to draw on the modern day reader would be entirely at a loss. I am hugely grateful for this chance to understand a world which is so different from our own and which could so easily have been lost to us forever.
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