Reader-friendly at every turn, with generous footnotes, character lists, and illustrations....You have to reach for Tolstoy or Proust to convey just what a captivating experience this story can be.
Tyler has completed the first major "Genji" translation of the 21st century, and it sets a new standard.
Not only is this latest English edition the most scrupulously true to the original, it also is superbly written and genuinely engaging. On occasion Tyler even manages to give us a taste of the formal aspect of Murasaki's style, with some wonderfully meandering, clause-embedded sentences. His technique is quite deliberate, and just as a reader feels the need to come up for air, the realization dawns that we are in fact following a subterranean map of Murasaki's prose.
Widely recognized as the world's first novel, as well as one of its best, the 11th-century tale of Genji the shining prince has been painstakingly and tenderly translated by Tyler, a retired professor of Japanese language and literature. Genji, the son of an emperor by one of his "Intimates" and preternaturally blessed with beauty and charm, is the center of this two-volume opus though he and his heroine die some two-thirds into the book which details both his political fortunes and his many amorous adventures. Chronicling some 75 years of court life with a dizzyingly large cast of characters, it is an epic narrative; it is also minutely attentive to particulars of character, setting, emotion even costume. While two complete English translations exist (Arthur Waley's of 1933 and Edward Seidensticker's of 1976), Tyler clearly intends his to be the definitive one. It is richer, fuller and more complicated than the others indeed, Tyler's fidelity to the bygone Japanese custom of not writing proper names can sometimes make it difficult, for example, to determine which of Genji's myriad lovers he is thinking about. Unlike Waley's translation, Tyler's is unexpurgated; unlike Seidensticker's, his is heavily annotated. New line drawings of Japanese architecture and activity complement the text, while character lists at chapter beginnings, a plot summary at the conclusion and two glossaries one of offices and titles, the other of general terms orient the reader in a multigenerational and unfamiliar world. Tyler's formality of tone (contrast Seidensticker's anachronistic "He could see her point" to Tyler's simple "He sympathized") offers readers a more graceful, convincing rendering of this1,000-year-old masterpiece. Scholars and novices alike should be pleased. 6-city translator tour. (Oct. 15) Forecast: This massive project involved a whole team at Viking (see PW Interview with editor Wendy Wolf, Aug. 20). The 20,000-copy first printing may seem ambitious, but the attractive boxed edition and landmark translation effort should convince a substantial number of readers to finally add this classic to their collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Written in the 11th century, Lady Murasaki's account of court life in Heian Japan stands as one of the undisputed monuments of world literature and one of the first novels in the modern sense of the term. Stretching over several generations, it focuses on the Shining Prince, his defendants, and their shifting fortunes. Much of the substance of the novel resides in the layers and subtle nuances of etiquette, gesture, and ritual. There are two previous English translations available in both full and abridged forms, Arthur Waley's (1933) and Edward Seidensticker's (1976). Waley's efforts are groundbreaking, though they distort the work's form and make Genji into an Edwardian gentleman. Seidensticker's translation is solid, though it often simplifies the syntax. Tyler, who taught Japanese language and literature for many years at the Australian National University, offers a version that effectively captures the indirection and shades of Murasaki's court language. Tyler also includes a series of appendixes, explaining clothing, colors, and poetic allusions, as well as a general glossary. A major contribution to our understanding of world literature; highly recommended. T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah, GA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
An elegant new translation (only the third ever done in English) of the 11th-century tale of court life in medieval Japan that is generally considered the world's oldest novel. For much of its great (though not excess) length, the story seems to be that of the eponymous "Shining Prince" Genji, the charismatic son of an emperor and a lowborn concubine. Genji's fondness for both palace intrigue and illicit love affairs bring him in and out of royal favor, and into intimate contact with such vividly drawn female characters as his own young stepmother Fujitsubo, the daughter ("Third Princess") of a former emperor who will marry him and turn the tables by cuckolding him, and a passionate noblewoman (Lady Rokujo) whose ghost will let neither Genji nor his many other women rest. The most memorable of them, however, may be the love of Genji's life, Murasaki, whom he first meets when she's a child and to whom he remains compulsively devoted and unfaithful, and whose lingering image sends him into the last of his several "self-exiles." Then, after almost 800 pages, this almost inhumanly vital protagonist dies ("His light was gone, and none among his many descendants could compare to what he had been"). A new plot emerges, in which Genji's putative son Kaoru (actually fathered by Third Princess's lover Kashiwagi) struggles with his best friend Niou (who is Genji's grandson) for the love of beautiful Ukifune, who flees them both, eventually becoming a nun. This ineffably urbane analysis of the permutations and the folly of romantic love can perhaps be compared to Proust, but to little else in Western fiction (it's actually closer in spirit to the medieval Romance of the Rose). The pseudonymous"Lady Murasaki's" precise characterizations (particularly of Genji, a marvelous mixture of sexual egoism and genuine innate nobility) are merely the crowning features of an astonishingly rich, absorbing drama that has stood, and will doubtless continue to stand, the severest tests of time and changing literary fashions. There is nothing else on earth quite like The Tale of Genji. Utterly irresistible.
This new version by Dennis Washburn, a professor at Dartmouth, falls somewhere between Seidensticker’s reader-friendly translation and Tyler’s more stringently literal one, resulting in a fluid, elegant rendition.
Murasaki watched the sexual maneuverings, the social plots, the marital politics, the swirl of slights and flatteries that went on around her, with the keen, sometimes sardonic, and always worldly eyes of a medieval Jane Austen.
A formidable accomplishment. The language is beautiful, the footnotes are helpful yet unobtrusive: Washburn has performed a great service by making this groundbreaking novel, written in the eleventh century, available to the English-speaking world in a version worthy of the Japanese masterpiece.
In Dennis Washburn’s new translation of The Tale of Genji, lovers of novels will have the literary experience denied them until now: for hours and weeks at a time they will be able to sink into the dark, titillating, sexy, sad, enraging, absorbing world of this, the world’s first novel, written by Murasaki Shikibu, the imaginative genius court woman of eleventh-century Japan. Washburn eliminates the gap in centuries between us and that long-lost world, and preserves for us the freshness of vision and voice of that great writer from long ago and her Proustian chronicling of the darkening beauty of a world in decline, a world depleted of male erotic power and female depredation, of the tortures of jealousy and the frailness of art and beauty to console.”
This is the Washburn Tale of Genji from start to finish: immensely scholarly but also, somehow, uncannily readable, helpful without being pedantic, clarifying without ever simplifying…. It’s an amazingly cheering performance, a Genji to last a century.”
Award-winning translator Dennis Washburn’s lucid and accessible rendering will introduce new readers to the entrancing narrative world of this great classic.
Retranslations of a classic are always reason to celebrate. All the more so when it’s the Genji, with all its complex characters and unforgettable episodes. One tries to begin logically, from the first page, but can’t resist flipping ahead to locate favorite scenes and see how they are imagined anew. . . . A fresh and invaluable Tale of Genji for both those of us reuniting with a familiar friend and those encountering it for the very first time.”
[The Tale of Genji is] not only the world’s first real novel,
but one of its greatest.” –Donald Keene, Columbia University
“Edward Seidensticker’s translation has the ring of authority.” –New York Times Book Review
“A triumph of authenticity and readability.” –Washington Post Book World