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The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

The Tale of Genji

by Murasaki Shikibu

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: 源氏物語 (book 3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,499401,721 (3.92)1 / 296
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… (more)

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English (37)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
This was pretty hard to follow at first, probably because most characters are referred to by their titles or the titles of their relatives (and these change over time) and because the first few chapters are so episodic, but gets easier to follow in the later sections, particularly the final part about Niou, Kaouru and Uji. It was interesting to read about this culture/time period that I don't know much about, but I hated all the main characters too much to be able to say that I enjoyed it. ( )
  tronella | Jun 22, 2019 |
Don't know if it's the book itself or the translation, but I have failed to read this novel three times now...
  akaGingerK | Sep 30, 2018 |
The Tale of Genji, thought by many to be the first novel in the history of world literature, was written by a woman, Murasaki Shikibu, in the eleventh century. Lady Murasaki lived during the Heian Period (794-1185). Reading a general description of this era, it is known for the writing of poetry, diaries, and fiction produced by court ladies for court ladies. Themes often included the love of nature as well as the art of love within the court.

This is the tale of “Prince” Genji, a son to a second concubine and thus his status is relegated to a glorified commoner. With no real duties or status, Genji embarks upon making the ladies happy with poetry, song, and lovemaking. His first “love” is a concubine of his father, Fujitsubo. Fujitsubo is the niece of the deceased Kiritsubo consort which she highly resembles. For the remainder of the story, Genji will pursue women who resemble his mother; Freud would have a heyday.

While this book does give us important history and cultural information,my personal take is that it reads like a soap opera; maybe a pre-cursor to Don Juan. But then, give the people what they want, eh? Because of the longevity of this book, I rated it 3 stars, but I didn’t really care for it. Read it because is was on the 1001 BYMRBYD list. ( )
  Tess_W | Apr 4, 2018 |
This is a phenomenal novel. Difficult to read, yes; but definitely a worthwhile effort.
If offers a panorama of characters surrounding the lives and loves of Genji and Murasaki. It opens a window into life of ancient Japan, a time when admiration for beauty prevailed. ( )
1 vote xieouyang | Mar 3, 2018 |
There are definitely some things to like about Murasaki Shikibu's massive "The Tale of Genji," especially if you're interested in this period of Japanese culture. The book's biggest strength is in the description of daily life of the Japanese court and commoners and in this manner, the book has an almost cinematic feel.

The story centers around Genji, the son of the Emperor, who is removed from the line of succession because his mother was of lower class and was acceptable. With power out of his grasp, Genji more or less becomes a collector of women, whom he installs in different wings of his house. As he ages, his political fortunes change a bit, then stagnate and the things Genji did as a young man circle back as he experiences them from the opposite end.

There were parts of of the book that were cringy for me -- even though I understand this was a different time period -- not all of these women really wanted to be collected and his relationship with the young Murasaki was troubling. Overall, I thought the book was okay, but it definitely wasn't something I would have pushed through if it weren't on the 1,001 list. ( )
  amerynth | Feb 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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.
added by Jozefus | editThe 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.
added by Jozefus | editNRC Handelsblad, Auke Hulst (pay site) (Nov 15, 2013)

» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shikibu, Murasakiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Соколова-Д… Татьяна Львовнапер.main authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buckley, PaulCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enchi, FumikoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koh, TsuboiIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seidensticker, Edward G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tyler, RoyallTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Waley, ArthurTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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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Average: (3.92)
1 11
1.5 1
2 20
2.5 8
3 99
3.5 19
4 146
4.5 25
5 146

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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