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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ancient, and very impressive
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...
Published on 11 May 2008 by J. R. P. Wigman

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16 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Seidensticker is still tops
The Tale of Genji (Classics)Tyler's translation has been widely criticized for its clumsiness as it attempts to give a more accurate feeling for the original Japanese than Seidensticker. But Seidensticker's virtuosic command of English runs rings around Tyler's stiff, unnatural, groping with the English language. This is not a necessary translation. Penguin only...
Published on 27 Mar 2011 by Jane Murray


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ancient, and very impressive, 11 May 2008
By 
J. R. P. Wigman "Hans Wigman" (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A true achievement, 20 July 2014
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This review is from: The Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) (Paperback)
Amazing translation with many helpful footnotes that help convey the greatness of the original. Since I do not expect to find a better translation anytime soon, I dare to call this the ultimate edition of Genji for decades to come. The books itself, although being a paperback, is wonderfully bound and looks very nice, too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars stunning insight into a fascinating culture, 24 May 2014
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant footnotes bring Genji alive, 2 Oct 2013
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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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the world's greatest books, 3 July 2013
By 
Samuel J. Parkinson (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) (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 haven't made an extensive comparison of translations, nor can I 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.
The notes are best of all. The introduction really does give you the background and understanding to appreciate the tale at its best (if you haven't read other Heian literature, you'll need that). It compresses all that some longer books have said into surprisingly few pages. Then the footnotes explain nearly everything that is obscure. Those on the poetry are unusually good - they give you the chance to see some of the symbolism, ambiguity and double meaning of these short poems - so much so that I have found it possible to appreciate other Heian poetry without notes, because these ones are such an excellent introduction.
It may be worth reading some other Heian literature first - perhaps As I crossed a bridge of Dreams, or perhaps dip into the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, just to get a feel for the times, and to have a shorter introduction to the world in which it is set. Genji is incomparably better than either, but it's big enough that it might be worth discovering whether that world can interest you first. Once you get into Genji, though (even if it takes a couple of hours) you will be hooked forever.
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16 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Seidensticker is still tops, 27 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) (Paperback)
The Tale of Genji (Classics)Tyler's translation has been widely criticized for its clumsiness as it attempts to give a more accurate feeling for the original Japanese than Seidensticker. But Seidensticker's virtuosic command of English runs rings around Tyler's stiff, unnatural, groping with the English language. This is not a necessary translation. Penguin only commissioned it because they could not renegotiate the rights deal they wanted for Seidensticker's version in the UK. Not that Seidensticker is inaccurate, or takes willful liberties. But in the face of such a gigantic achievement, Tyler had to take a stand, and the only stand available was to be more literal. This, as Borges pointed out long ago, and Walter Benjamin too for that matter, never works. Sad! Seidensticker is hard to find in the UK now but on US Amazon, where both translations are available in paperback, Seidensticker outranks Tyler by a factor of four.
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36 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best translation, 20 May 2003
By 
Andy Dingley "andy_dingley" (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) (Paperback)
The Tale of Genji is a deservedly famous classic, and doesn't need me to patronise it.
This is a better translation than Seidensticker's
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful copy of a classic book, 28 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) (Paperback)
Although I've not managed to read much of it yet, I like the style - however, I did read excerpts from all of the major translations before choosing this one. I would recommend doing this before buying any copy.

One small issue, some of the outer edges of the pages have not been smoothly cut, giving it an uneven edge. This does not bother me as the printing is fine, but this may bother others.
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6 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad printing quality, 24 Oct 2009
This review is from: The Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) (Paperback)
I bought already two copies of this book, one for me, one as a present. I think it's a shame that Penguin took such a high quality book, took so much pains with edition, annotations, illustrations and so on...and printed it on bad quality paper, with the pages unevenly cut, some of them still stuck together, thus lowering the overall quality of the product. I even had to send back one of the books, because it had misprints and smears on the pages.
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13 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Book in Japan, 22 Jan 2005
This review is from: The Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) (Paperback)
I had thought that the Tale of Genji was just erotic romance before I came to Japan. But I made a mistake. What the tale of Genji tells us not only eroticism but also the meaning of life. If you don't know Buddhism and Shinto, you don't understand the essence of the novel. Sino-Japanese culture is also important because Murasaki Shikibu learned Sinology (Chibese classic literature).And the emperor-system is different from Western court. Now I think this classic is very difficult to appreciate. However,I like Genji Monogatari the best.
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The Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions)
The Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) by Murasaki Shikibu (Paperback - 24 April 2003)
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