The Tale of the Heike

The Tale of the Heike

by Royall Tyler
     
 

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From the acclaimed translator of The Tale of Genji, a groundbreaking rendering of Japan’s great martial epic

The fourteenth-century Tale of the Heike is Japan’s Iliad—a moving depiction of the late twelfth-century wars between the Heike and Genji clans. No work has had a greater impact on later

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Overview

From the acclaimed translator of The Tale of Genji, a groundbreaking rendering of Japan’s great martial epic

The fourteenth-century Tale of the Heike is Japan’s Iliad—a moving depiction of the late twelfth-century wars between the Heike and Genji clans. No work has had a greater impact on later Japanese literature, theater, music, film, and manga—indeed on the Japanese people’s sense of their own past. It has also been a major source for medieval-Japan-based fantasy in English. With woodcuts by nineteenth-century artist Teisai Hokuba, a major student of the great Hokusai, Royall Tyler’s stunning presentation of this touchstone of Japanese culture recreates the oral epic as it was actually performed and conveys the rich and vigorous language of the original.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Christopher Benfey
Encountering Homer in a vivid translation made Keats feel like an astonished astronomer watching a new planet swim into view. Readers unfamiliar with medieval Japanese literature…may feel a kindred excitement on first looking into The Tale of the Heike, in a taut new rendering by Royall Tyler. If "beauty and elegance," as Tyler remarks, pervade the atmosphere of the earlier Tale of Genji…the fall of the Heike warrior clan, during the late 12th century, calls to mind the riotous bloodletting of the Iliad. And just as Homer's epic has inspired a thousand spinoffs, much of what draws us to Japanese culture—samurai and geisha, anime and manga, woodblock prints and Kurosawa films—comes right out of the exploits recounted in this book.
Publishers Weekly
This modern translation of the Japanese medieval classic tracing the rise and fall of the Taira (Heike) clan reads like the Iliad filtered through Akira Kurosawa, with battlefield panoramas and personal tragedies captured in an exquisitely cinematic narrative. Eight centuries of oral tradition have transformed historical figures into legends, none more so than Taira no Kiyomori, the 12th-century warlord who, by suppressing rebellions and putting relatives into key positions, rises so quickly through the imperial hierarchy that he forgets fundamental principles of Japanese epics: earthly possessions are transient; fear the angry dead. Kiyomori dismisses his faithful mistress, destroys two temples, cuts off numerous heads, and moves the capital on a whim. While arrogance proves Kiyomori’s downfall, success beguiles the Minamoto (Genji) brothers, who defeat the Heike, then turn against one another. Memorable passages include descriptions of the dancer Gio, the old warhorse Yoshihisa, and the brave soldier Kumagai. Stories-within-stories highlight customs as varied as achieving redemption through renunciation and dressing the fashion-forward hero. Despite its antique style, readers will find themselves drawn into the book’s alternately delicate and brutal world, where there are degrees of emperor (emperor, retired emperor, cloistered emperor) and monks (esoteric monks, fighting monks, retired nobility who become monks). Following his noteworthy translation of The Tale of Genji, Tyler offers accessible language while observing literary tradition in names and format. To help both old hands and newcomers navigate the vibrant yet sometimes arduous masterpiece, he provides an introduction, character list, maps, genealogies, chronologies, footnotes, and glorious 19th-century illustrations. (Nov.)
Times Literary Supplement
"Spectacularly beautiful...This will be the English Heike for our time and for many decades to come."
Liza Dalby
Praise for THE TALE OF GENJI

“Superbly written and genuinely engaging…one of those works that can be read and reread throughout one’s life.”

The New York Times Book Review
“An enormous achievement.”
The Wall Street Journal
“A new translation that makes Genji accessible to contemporary readers is a landmark event. [Tyler’s translation has clearly been a labor of love. In his beautifully written translation he tries to get as close to the original as possible, immersing us in eleventh-century Japan. Mr. Tyler’s translation is richly embellished with footnotes that flag for us everything that Murasaki and her contemporaries would have taken for granted. All in all, Mr. Tyler’s translation is likely to be the definitive edition of The Tale of Genji for many years to come.”
Newsweek
The Tale of Genji set an insanely high standard for anything that came after it. This latest edition is reader friendly at every turn, with generous footnotes, character lists and lots of illustrations to show what robes looked like, or swords, or houses. You have to reach for comparisons to Tolstoy or Proust to convey just what a captivating experience this story can be."
The New Yorker
“Tyler’s delicate ear for the language of the original helps breathe new life into the story of Genji.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Though [Murasaki’s] setting was the royal Japanese court of one thousand years ago, her characters managed to draw the reader into their passion and terrors in an uncannily modern way. [Tyler’s translation is] beautifully readable…it sets a new standard. Not only is this new English edition the most scrupulously true to the original, it also is superbly written and genuinely engaging. We are blessed to have Tyler’s help in reading it.”
The Washington Post Book World
“Tyler has long shown himself to be one of the finest translators of Japanese in our era. In producing this new Genji translation, he has been able not only to draw upon his own skills as a writer, but also to build on the efforts and accomplishments of his predecessors…the Tyler version is by far the most helpful to the general reader.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“[Tyler] has crafted an elegant translation that remarkably renders this eleventh-century tale in language so lively, vivid and transparent, one could easily believe that the book was written by some gifted postmodernist. Royall Tyler devoted space to explaining, through the introduction and footnotes, nuances of the time, helping help us place them into a modern context. This edition of The Tale of Genji is beautifully realized, both as  translation and as a seamless art object.”
From the Publisher
"An elegant new translation [and] an account of a 12th century civil war that is an important historical document as well as a work of great power and beauty."—Los Angeles Times

"Encountering Homer in a vivid translation made Keats feel like an astonished astronomer watching a new planet swim into view. Readers unfamiliar with medieval Japanese literature — and that must mean most of us — may feel a kindred excitement on first looking into The Tale of the Heike, in a taut new rendering by Royall Tyler."—The New York Times Book Review

“This modern translation of the Japanese medieval classic tracing the rise and fall of the Taira (Heike) clan reads like the Iliad filtered through Akira Kurosawa, with battlefield panoramas and personal tragedies captured in an exquisitely cinematic narrative…Following his noteworthy translation of The Tale of Genji, Tyler offers accessible language while observing literary tradition in names and format. To help both old hands and newcomers navigate the vibrant yet sometimes arduous masterpiece, he provides an introduction, character list, maps, geneaologies, chronologies, footnotes, and glorious 19th-century illustrations.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670025138
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
10/25/2012
Pages:
784
Product dimensions:
6.56(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.54(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“This modern translation of the Japanese medieval classic tracing the rise and fall of the Taira (Heike) clan reads like the Iliad filtered through Akira Kurosawa, with battlefield panoramas and personal tragedies captured in an exquisitely cinematic narrative…Following his noteworthy translation of The Tale of Genji, Tyler offers accessible language while observing literary tradition in names and format. To help both old hands and newcomers navigate the vibrant yet sometimes arduous masterpiece, he provides an introduction, character list, maps, geneaologies, chronologies, footnotes, and glorious 19th-century illustrations.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Meet the Author

Royall Tyler, an American, is retired from the Australian National University where he taught Japanese language and literature for many years. He has a B.A. from Harvard University and a PhD. from Columbia University and has taught at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Wisconsin.

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