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The Tale Of Genji (Murasaki Shikibu) (英語) ハードカバー – 1992/12/17
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This is the prose masterpiece of the Heian era of the 10th and 11th centuries, which is recognized as a great period in Japanese literature. It is an account of the intricate, exquisite, highly ordered court culture which made such a masterpiece possible.
""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"
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The first translation, by Arthur Waley, reads beautifully and still holds a place in many fans' hearts. It has also been liberally edited and sometimes loosely translated; one wonders how much of the original work remains.
Two recent translations compete for top honors. The more recent one, by Royall Tyler, boasts helpful footnotes and background notes. It also takes great pains to render the novel in stylistic terms that are very close to the original. At the same time, it can be hard to follow at times, since many of Shikibu's authorial conventions have been preserved.
Edward Siedensticker offers good accuracy, with prose that's elegant and precise. He really excels with the book's frequent poetry; his translations are the best in English. While his complete translation is true, he doesn't take Tyler's cares to translate Shikibu's stylistic quirks. His translation is, then, more immediately readable. But more footnotes wouldn't have been a hindrance.
I admire Royal Tyler's achievement, but I enjoy Siedensticker's. Perhaps the best course of action is to read both (if you have the time). Otherwise, it may be a good idea to compare passages and see which you prefer. In either case, Siedensticker's poems are indispensible.
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.
However, something strange happened with this book - by the end, I had decided to seek out the further volumes so as to complete the story. So Genji, annoying or otherwise, grows on the reader, and you feel compelled to find out what happened next. And this is the sign of a good book. And if you have any interest in Japanese literature, or Heian culture, this book is a must-read, as so much relates to it.
This is one of the `classic' translations, and is quite easy to understand. I would recommend having `A Reader's Guide to The Tale of Genji' by William Puette on hand while reading if you want to fully appreciate all that is going on.