""The Tale of Genji", as translated by Arthur Waley, is written with an almost miraculous naturalness, and what interests us is not the exoticism--the horrible word--but rather the human passions of the novel. Such interest is just: Murasaki's work is what one would quite precisely call a psychological novel. I dare to recommend this book to those who read me."--Jorge Luis Borges, "The Total Library"
Murasaki Shikibu, a lady in the Heian court of Japan, is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji–written 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.
The Tale of Genji, and this (Seidensticker) translation, is without doubt one of the finest reading experiences one can possibly have. What I want to review is what the publisher has done with this book. I purchased this copy in June 2001, and on the frontispiece it says 4th printing. There are so many printing errors in this book it mars what might otherwise have been a sublime reading experience. I will give you just one example: on page 113 a line reads: "Then came Koremitsu's house, he would be called a lecher and a child theif [sic]." Now this made no sense to me, either as a sentence or in the narrative context, so I consulted the abridged edition (which I also have). The line should have read: "Then came Koremitsu's unsettling report. He must act. If he were to take her from her father's house, he would be called a lecher and a child thief." That's a total of 14 words missing between "Koremitsu's" and "house". This is the most serious error in the book, but there are many others, and I've only read 1/4th of the book so far. This Everyman Library edition, the publisher boasts, uses acid-free cream-wove paper with a sewn full cloth binding. It's a beautifully designed book. If only the publishers had given as much attention to the soul of this book as to its body, it might have been worth the price I paid for it. Books should come with a warranty, really.
Not the translation advertised; also abridged2012/3/9
This is not the translation advertised in the description; it is an older translation. Also this version is abridged, which should be noted in the description. If you're looking for a complete translation, this ain't it. :(
Kindle Edition is NOT the Waley Translation2012/2/17
This Kindle edition is a translation by Kencho Suematsu, NOT Arthur Waley, and I would not recommend it to anyone who wants to read The Tale of Genji. There are far far better translations available. The Kindle version is falsely labeled, in my opinion.
This edition only contains the first seventeen chapters of the book (less than a third of the whole thing) and they are badly translated, especially the poems--and chapters are shortened without warning, taking out key information. Buyer beware. Unfortunately, I wasn't--and my whole class had to suffer with this version...my bad!
Many times it is the earliest efforts that are the best.2003/8/15
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.