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The Tale of Genji

av Murasaki Shikibu

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MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygDiskussioner / Omnämnanden
4,838441,751 (3.9)1 / 299
The most famous work of Japanese literature and the world's first novel--written a thousand years ago and one of the enduring classics of world literature. Written centuries before the time of Shakespeare and even Chaucer,The Tale of Genji marks the birth of the novel--and after more than a millennium, this seminal work continues to enchant readers throughout the world. Lady Murasaki Shikibu and her tale's hero, Prince Genji, have had an unmatched influence on Japanese culture. Prince Genji manifests what was to become an image of the ideal Heian era courtier; gentle and passionate. Genji is also a master poet, dancer, musician and painter.The Tale of Genji follows Prince Genji through his many loves and varied passions. This book has influenced not only generations of courtiers and samurai of the distant past, but artists and painters even in modern times--episodes in the tale have been incorporated into the design of kimonos and handicrafts, and the four-line poems calledwaka which dance throughout this work have earned it a place as a classic text in the study of poetry. This version by Kencho Suematsu was the first-ever translation in English. Condensed, it's a quarter length of the unabridged text, making it perfect for readers with limited time. "Not speaking is the wiser part, And words are sometimes vain, But to completely close the heart In silence, gives me pain." --Prince Genji, inThe Tale of Genji… (mer)
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Classic work of Japanese literature, written at the beginning of the 11th century by the noble Murasaki Shikibu. The original manuscript, created around the height of the Heian period, is no more. It was done in the Orihon style: several sheets of paper glued and folded alternately in one direction and then in the other. The work is a unique representation of the lifestyle of the high courtiers during the Heian period. It is written in archaic language and in a poetic but confusing style, which makes it unreadable for the average Japanese without dedicated study. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that Genji was translated into modern Japanese by the poet Akiko Yosano.

The work chronicles the life of Hikaru Genji, or "Shining Genji", son of a former Japanese emperor, known to readers as Emperor Kiritsubo, and a low-ranking concubine. For political reasons, the emperor removes Genji from the line of succession, demoting him to a commoner, giving him the surname Minamoto, and he pursues a career as an imperial officer. The tale focuses on Genji's romantic life and describes the customs of the aristocratic society of the time. It is considered the first novel in the world and the first psychological novel.

The Tale of Genji may have been written chapter by chapter in parts, while Murasaki delivered the tale to aristocratic women. It has many elements found in a modern novel: a central character and a very large number of main and secondary characters, a well-developed characterization of all the main characters, a sequence of events that span the life span of the central character and beyond. The work does not make use of a plot; instead, events happen and the characters simply age.

Because it was written to entertain the eleventh-century Japanese court, the work presents many difficulties for modern readers. First, Murasaki's language, the court of the Japanese Heian period, was highly inflected and had a very complex grammar. Another problem is that naming people was considered rude in Heian high society; therefore, none of the characters is named in the work; instead, the narrator often refers to men by their position or title, and women by the color of their clothes, or the words used in a meeting or the position of a prominent male relative.

Since Chinese was the academic language of the court, works written in Japanese (the literary language used by women, usually in personal accounts of court life) were not taken very seriously; prose was also not considered equal to poetry. The Tale of Genji, however, differed in being informed by a comprehensive knowledge of Chinese and Japanese poetry and in being a graceful work of imaginative fiction. It incorporates about 800 waka, cutting poems allegedly written by the main character, and his flexible narrative supports the story through 54 chapters of a character and his legacy.

At its most basic, The Tale of Genji is an absorbing introduction to the culture of aristocracy in the early Heian period of Japan, its forms of entertainment, its way of dressing, its daily life and its moral code. The era is recreated through the story of Genji, the handsome, sensitive and talented courtier, an excellent lover and a worthy friend. Most of the story concerns Genji's loves, and each of the women in his life is vividly outlined. The work shows a supreme sensitivity to human emotions and the beauties of nature, but as it continues, its somber tone reflects the Buddhist conviction of the transience of life in this world.

For those who are truly interested in Japan, especially its history, it is a delight. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Mar 19, 2021 |
Utterly meaningless star rating alert: what else could you give it?

Now, granted, I suspect a lot of readers are just like me, in that we'll go hunting for really good things about this book, even if, on the surface, it perhaps does less for us than most 1400 page medieval tales. And I'm not afraid to admit that the overwhelming impression I have now is that this is astonishingly long, and astonishingly old, and despite those two things is easily readable as what we today call a novel.

The problem is that we today are not accustomed to reading books like this. Genji is more like a successful '90s television series: it's pretty good, it's best taken one hour per week, there turns out to be very little variation but who cares because you're only reading it for an hour a week, and then the show-runners, who never had any real idea of how to end their now twenty year old 'artwork' just kind of stop making it. That's just like a lot of books that we now read as old novels: they weren't meant to be read cover to cover in a short period of time, they were meant to be dipped into, lived with, were meant to sink into the reader rather than be swallowed like a nice cherry. I admit, I've been formed by the modern novel, and I like to eat. Besides, if I spent years reading a book, I'd never get to write a goodreads review, and then my life would have no meaning.

All of that said, Murasaki was clearly a woman of genius. That she can keep someone even moderately interested, despite the book's lack of variation, (what we now think of as) shallow characterisation, and formlessness is a testament to that. The real flaw of the book, from this modern reader's perspective, is none of these things, but the final third. Here, we have a story following the generation following Genji's. It's a fine story, about two young men and three young women, lots of love, conflict, and so on. But it suffers in comparison to the story of Genji himself for two reasons. First, the Genji part is very narrowly focused on Genji himself, which means that for all the proliferation of characters and incident, we have a firm base. The later chapters lack this strong focus, and it's not clear to me that Murasaki (if she actually wrote those chapters; apparently there's some debate) had as much control there as she did earlier. Second, the second part is very similar to the first. It's a bit as if Proust had put Swann in Love at the end of his novel: all the themes and dilemmas are there for you to see, but instead of being a little introductory taste, it's more like being served another main course after your main course.

All that said, a scholar will be able to tell me why I'm wrong about these flaws, show me how important they are to Murasaki's art and so on.

A scholar will not be able to convince me, though, that you should read Washburn's translation. Leaving aside the very odd decision not to have a list of characters (which becomes incredibly irritating in the later chapter, when everyone's being referred to by family associations), the prose is workmanlike at best. Nothing is ever unclear, which is nice, but there are so many sentences of the "There was one thing that Mr. Spot didn't like to do, and that is write calligraphy" type (where any competent writer or editor would have condense them down to "Mr. Spot didn't like to write calligraphy") that I sometimes wondered if anyone had proofread the thing at all. They obviously did, since there are only a couple of typos. But there's no way you could read this book and know that Murasaki is meant to be a master stylist. I don't know if the Penguin translation is any better, but I have to assume it is, and recommend that to people instead of this one. ( )
1 rösta stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
I decided to read this during lockdown in May 2020 as it's far too heavy to carry on a commute and has been sat on my shelf since one of my last trips to Japan, so perhaps 2004 or a little earlier. It's not easy, it took me a full month of basically forcing myself through it, but out the other side I'm glad I've now read it. I do think it's a great translation - including plenty of explanatory footnotes, illustrations, maps and appendices to help navigate the unfamiliar world.

It's often described as the first novel, but doesn't really conform to modern ideas of a novel. Stories begin and end without warning, timelines overlap. Genji dies between chapters with minimal fanfare and the book just carries on without him, before ending, well to say 'abruptly' is a severe understatement. Applying modern standards to it can be grim reading - rape, paedophilia and kidnap are all presented as unproblematically romantic. It's also pretty confusing how often all these night time meetings behind multiple screens and blinds result in a pregnancy! But its descriptions of Japanese court life at the time are fascinating and evocative and in the end that's what makes it worthwhile - this glimpse into the life of a tiny entitled class in a faraway time and place. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Jul 12, 2020 |
Admittedly this book isn't for everybody. It's not so much a story as a documentary - albeit fictional - detailing the lives of a few characters in the Imperial court in medieval Japan. There is no particular plot, rather we follow these characters as they grow, age, and ultimately die. This is perhaps epitomised by the ending, wherein the book simply stops, virtually mid-paragraph, leaving all the ongoing shenanigans incomplete.

Tyler's translation provides ample footnotes and a chapter-by-chapter dramatis personæ, very useful since the total number of characters numbers in the hundreds, and almost all of them are referred to by their title and not their name.

So, while this book isn't recommended for the casual reader, it is a wonderful book for anyone interested in Japanese history and with the time and patience to work their way through it. ( )
  imlee | Jul 7, 2020 |
Admittedly this book isn't for everybody. It's not so much a story as a documentary - albeit fictional - detailing the lives of a few characters in the Imperial court in medieval Japan. There is no particular plot, rather we follow these characters as they grow, age, and ultimately die. This is perhaps epitomised by the ending, wherein the book simply stops, virtually mid-paragraph, leaving all the ongoing shenanigans incomplete.

Tyler's translation provides ample footnotes and a chapter-by-chapter dramatis personæ, very useful since the total number of characters numbers in the hundreds, and almost all of them are referred to by their title and not their name.

So, while this book isn't recommended for the casual reader, it is a wonderful book for anyone interested in Japanese history and with the time and patience to work their way through it. ( )
  leezeebee | Jul 6, 2020 |
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The main thing required of a noble gentleman in Heian Japan was a sense of style. Seducing another man’s wife could be forgiven; a bad poem, clumsy handwriting, or the wrong perfume could not.
tillagd av Jozefus | ändraThe New Yorker, Ian Buruma (Jul 15, 2016)
 
Het verhaal van Genji is dé klassieke roman uit de Japanse literaire historie. Het boek werd in de elfde eeuw geschreven door Murasaki Shikibu, pseudoniem van een hofdame in de keizerlijke hoofdstad Heian-kyo (Kyoto). Het torent al duizend jaar als de berg Fuji uit boven het literaire landschap van Japan.
tillagd av Jozefus | ändraNRC Handelsblad, Auke Hulst (betalvägg) (Nov 15, 2013)
 

» Lägg till fler författare (32 möjliga)

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Shikibu, Murasakiprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Соколова-Д… Татьяна Львовнапер.huvudförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Buckley, PaulOmslagsformgivaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Enchi, FumikoÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Koh, TsuboiIllustratörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
MajeskaIllustratörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Seidensticker, Edward G.Översättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Tyler, RoyallÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Waley, ArthurÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Zimet, JayeFormgivaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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In a certain reign (whose can it have been?) someone of no very great rank, among all His Magesty's Consorts and Intimates, enjoyed exceptional favor.
In a certain reign there was a lady not of the first rank whom the emperor loved more than any of the others.
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There are reportedly three basic translations of "The Tale of Genji" into English. Arthur Waley produced a six part translation between 1925 and 1933. Edward Seidensticker produced the second English version in 1976, described as "doggedly faithful" to the original. The most recent translation into English is Royall Tyler's, published in 2001.
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The most famous work of Japanese literature and the world's first novel--written a thousand years ago and one of the enduring classics of world literature. Written centuries before the time of Shakespeare and even Chaucer,The Tale of Genji marks the birth of the novel--and after more than a millennium, this seminal work continues to enchant readers throughout the world. Lady Murasaki Shikibu and her tale's hero, Prince Genji, have had an unmatched influence on Japanese culture. Prince Genji manifests what was to become an image of the ideal Heian era courtier; gentle and passionate. Genji is also a master poet, dancer, musician and painter.The Tale of Genji follows Prince Genji through his many loves and varied passions. This book has influenced not only generations of courtiers and samurai of the distant past, but artists and painters even in modern times--episodes in the tale have been incorporated into the design of kimonos and handicrafts, and the four-line poems calledwaka which dance throughout this work have earned it a place as a classic text in the study of poetry. This version by Kencho Suematsu was the first-ever translation in English. Condensed, it's a quarter length of the unabridged text, making it perfect for readers with limited time. "Not speaking is the wiser part, And words are sometimes vain, But to completely close the heart In silence, gives me pain." --Prince Genji, inThe Tale of Genji

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