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The Tale of Genji (潤一郎訳源氏物語)

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  5,459 ratings  ·  474 reviews
The original novel—a classic of Japanese and world literature and a stunningly beautiful story

Written in the eleventh century, this exquisite portrait of courtly life in medieval Japan is widely celebrated as the world’s first novel—and is certainly one of its finest. Genji, the Shining Prince, son of an emperor, is a passionate character whose tempestuous nature, family...more
Paperback, Abridged, 352 pages
Published February 28th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1008)
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Artist: Toshiaki Kato

Without stories like these about the old days, though, how would we ever pass the time when there is nothing else to do? Besides, among these lies there are certainly some plausibly touching scenes, convincingly told; and yes, we know they are fictions, but even so we are moved and half drawn for no real reason to the pretty, suffering heroine. We may disbelieve the blatantly impossible but still be amazed by magnificently contrived wonders, and although these pall on quiet,...more
I simply cannot believe this book is celebrating it's 1000th anniversary this year. The characters are so complex, with such a human range of emotions. There are so many characters, yet each one is unique. She has so calculatedly dialed in each character, subtly conveying how close they come to her view of perfection - Murasaki being at the top of this, and (in my opinion) Niou and others being at the bottom.
It is so easy to see how this book still influences literary styles in Japan today... t...more
Jun 17, 2009 Nozomi rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sigmund Freud
Shelves: own, japan
Oh yes, I totally want to read about all the affairs Genji, the "shining" prince, had with dozens of other women. Not to mention most of these women looked like his mother in some way or another. (Freud would be esctatic.) One of these women wasn't even a woman at all, but a small child he pretty much abducted. Of course, this young girl looked like his mother.

The fact that this is the first true psychological novel in the world is interesting, it really is. But just because it is so doesn't mea...more
Huda Yahya

كل من قرأ كافكا على الشاطىء قد واتته غالباً رغبة شديدة في قراءة سيرة الأمير جينجي
التي كان يلتهمها كافكا الصغير في المكتبة العامة اليابنية

مراساكي شيبوكو هو الإسم الذي عُرفت به المؤلفة و ليس إسمها الحقيقي
وقد عاشت عمرها في البلاط الإمبراطوري وروت مما عايشته فانتازيا مذهلة تشابه ألف ليلة وليلة العربيةالتي ربما لا يعرف أغلب كتاب العالم سواها عن أدبنا العربي
حتى أن أنيس منصور عندما سأل الكاتب سومرست موم عما قرأه من الأدب العربي أجاب ألف ليلة وليلة فقط
مما أدى بالعقاد إلى غضب شديد
والإشارة بأنه رجل جاهل
i hate this book only a little less than i hate 'twilight'. the historical and literary significances are really impressive (it was the first novel written - and by a woman, for that matter), and it's the source of pretty much everything we currently know about heian court life, but genji is the wimpiest, rapiest protagonist ever. he is literally so mind-crushingly whiny, childish and just plain unlikeable that in my opinion, he ruins what is otherwise a pretty compelling story.

also, he rapes mo...more
Arguably the first novel ever written (using a modern definition of novel), and at the very least the first novel written by a woman, this essential work traces the life of a prince in medieval (Heian) Japan. The novel is intensely psychological and manages to very consistently portray the lives of hundreds of individuals across half a century or more. Aside from the insight the novel provides into the extremely rarified culture of the Japanese court in the middle ages, a reader comes away from...more
Amanda Spacaj-Gorham
This novel is a challenge on many levels. The biggest challenge of all is not resenting (or even despising) Genji himself. It is best read in conjunction with "The World of the Shining Prince" by Ivan Morris to understand the environment(1,000 years ago at the end of the Heian Period). Also read the Diary of Lady Murasaki. I wouldn't bother taking on 1,090 pages of Genji without the assistance of these works, which are much easier to digest.

Also read ALL the footnotes. When this book was writte...more
Turns out "Genji"'s not the little dog. Huh.

I guess the big lesson here is that it really matters what translation you get of a thousand-year-old Japanese novel. The one published by Tuttle Classics, translated by Kencho Suematsu, is terrible. At first, I figured, hey, thousand-year-old Japanese. Going to be turgid. But then, I noticed, the footnotes couldn't write their collective way out of a paper bag either:

"Sasinuki is a sort of loose trousers, and properly worn by men only, hence some comm...more
This epic-like Japanese novel is, of course, quite lengthy (54 Chapters, 1120 pages) and thus reading it would take your time and concentration. I thought I would never finish reading it but, after my visit to Japan for a week last April, I decided to resume reading it mixed with boredom and enjoyment.

This novel written by a court lady in the 11th century has been depicted on various, innumerable noble characters with illustrious noble titles unfamiliar to, I think, most of its readers outside J...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 5* of five

This review at A Dribble of Ink says more about why Genji matters than I can ever do.

I read the book in 1974. I got a hardcover Modern Library edition from my decade-older sister, who owned a bookstore. I read it in one solid week of enchantment, followed by a year of revisits and studies of the notes and other references. (The librarians at my high school agreed with the kids who teased me for being weird.)

This is a new translation, I have a copy, but many chunksters await my...more
I went to the library and compared the Whaley, Seidensticker, and Royall Tyler translations and for me it was no contest. Tyler's which is the newest is by far the easiest to read and has a more friendly page layout, not crammed like Whaley's. If you're going to read a book this long (the unabridged version) of a thousand pages or more, then fatigue avoidance is a key consideration. I did this same process at the library comparing versions of Tolstoy's War and Peace, and glad I did too. It no do...more
Ann Klefstad
I'm not sure if this is the translation I have (would have to root through the shelves) but the book itself is a wonder. It's a whole planet, so far away and yet full of breath and blood perceivable even at this palpable distance. What a passionate intelligence Murasaki had, and what discipline to go with it--as a writer she knew when to hold tight and when to cut and run, and she doesn't seem to waste a lot of time. As this is the very first thing anywhere in the world in its genre, she made ea...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Sep 11, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Interested in Japanese Culture
This is a work I've often seen named as the first novel, as well as a work that the introduction claims greatly influenced and embodies the Japanese culture--and this by a women writer. Not many undeniably great classics, especially this old, can claim female authorship, and this one was written around the turn of the first millennium, when Europe was just emerging from the Dark Ages. The Tale of the Genji, the product of a sophisticated court, is thus close in age to Beowulf, and by and large,...more
Elizabeth Reuter
Genji is a literary snapshot of life in Japan over 1,000 years ago. Following Prince Genji, a handsome and accomplished courtier who the author pictured as an ideal man, the book tells us of his rise through court life, often diverting to cover his many romances and the lives of people around him.

Lady Murasaki's work is remembered because, in my opinion, of her extraordinary insight into human nature. DO NOT read this book looking for heroes; you'll find characters you relate to, but everyone is...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
"The Tale of Genji is a novel written by an aristocratic woman for other women of her rank -- men at this time read history and poetry, sometimes theology, but not fiction -- which presents the first challenge to reading it. It wasn't written for you, dear reader, but for select contemporaries who instinctively understood everything that now needs to be spelled out in annotations and commentary. . . . The modern reader doesn't so much listen to the story as eavesdrop on it, spy on it, like the c...more
Phillip Kay
So much has been said about Genji Monogatari: some say it is the world's first novel; others, the greatest novel ever written; others again an incomparable source of information on Heian Japan. For some it is a satire, for others a great love story. All these are probably true, but it depends on your point of view, culture and even your sex as to how true.

My reading showed me that it is one of the greatest of autobiographies. For me, Murasaki, whose own name we do not even know, is the true hero...more
Considered by some to be the first novel (not including the The Golden Ass or Satyricon), the Tale of Genji is an incredible (and long) work written during the late Heian era, the so called classical period of japanese literature.

Born to an official of the court, the book's author would have lived and interacted with the aristocrats, princes and ladies-in-waiting that make up this tale. As a result, the book provides a vast amount of insight into the courtly life and behavior of the Heian era ru...more
This very long and very old book was written 1,000 years ago during the famous Heian period of Japan. Without turning all geeky and writing out a no-doubt poorly understood bit of history, it’s sufficient to say that this was, like many periods of history, a time of astonishing beauty and artistic achievement yet also absurdly dangerous, unhealthy and exploitative. It’s well worth reading up about it on the Internet because you will be enamoured.

This book is unusual for those in the West because...more
This is a truly magnificent work, a great gift to fans of classics, romance and Japanese literature. The quotes on the inside cover say it all.: "Both epic and intimate...A landmark event", "the oldest full-length novel in existence, and still very much alive...Tyler skillfully catches the erotic flavor, the vivid characterizations, and the elusive poetry of this classic", and "superbly written and genuinely engaging".

What I want to focus on is why a modern reader should attempt to navigate 1,12...more
May 28, 2009 Toshio rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who know Japanese but can't yet read this book in Japanese.
This edition focuses more on scholarship and language than it needs to, and risks making the translator's work, difficult in the best of times, all to visible to the reader. It's almost as though Roayll Tyler's saying, "This beast of a novel from a thousand years ago is too impossible for a western reader to understand, so I'll footnote and explain everything."

While many reviews tout this edition as more "user friendly" than the previous edition, the writing is just not very good. Royall Tyler,...more
Trying again now that fog is lifting. So far I have made far more progress.

This isn't fast going, but I can say that, about 1/4 of the way through the 1100 or so pages of this version (attractively bound in paperback by Penguin), it has already been worth the $28.

Ok, I give up.

Here is why I gave up. I defy anyone to continue reading this book with a straight face after reading what a collegue, The Twisted Genius Known As D Hawk, sent me on Friday:

TwitLit© Insider: Japanese Classic The Tale of Ge...more
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Okay, it took me a while to comment on this. Partly because I wasn't sure what to say. And partly because I'm not certain that I'm not too ignorant to have a sensible opinion. But, this is a review site. So what the heck, here goes.

If you're reading this book, you're probably not reading it because you think it will be fun exactly, in the sense of diversionary light reading. You may not even be reading it voluntarily. But if you are, you read it for the language, or for historical culture curios...more
Jee Koh
Reading Genji monogatari is like dreaming a beautiful and sad dream. The splendor of Genji's person, aptly captured in his nickname the Shining Lord, is marvelous. As is the splendor of his power after his return frome exile at Suma, cosmically represented by his house at Rokujo, with its four quarters and gardens corresponding to the seasons of the year. Yet splendor passes, as Genji first realizes when his father the Emperor dies.

The Edo period Japanese cultural scholar Motoori Norinaga first...more
This book is face punchingly bad.
I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with reviewer Spike Gomes when he wonders how some people could ever read anything written before 1970 given their moral indignation at the actions/beliefs of the characters in those works. Sure, the Tale of Genji is not everyone's cup of tea, but its standing as the greatest work of Japanese literature will not be challenged by allegations that it somehow "endorses rape", "lacks a plot", or is "shallow". I would suggest those individuals read the book a...more
So I finally finished The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu and I would just like you to all know that I HATED it. I definitely would not give it a place in my top 10 greatest novels of all time. I don't care if it is an 11th Century novel that revolutionized the genre by being the first novel to include feelings, and thoughts. It's horrible.


1)It has no point. The book basically follows Prince Genji throughout the course of his life and his many loves. The journey through these many loves do...more
This is one of my favorite books of all time. Some say it is actually the first novel ever written. I've also read the translation by Seidensticker, which I prefer a little (only for nostalgia's sake since that was the first translation I read). But Royall Tyler's translation is really good and includes a ton of useful footnotes and illustrations, and in some ways is a little more clear than Seidensticker's version.
The Tale of Genji is a beautiful, poetic and sweeping story. It does sort of end...more
A fabulous read. I've read both the Tyler and the Seidensticker translations and both have their charms. Seidensticker goes for the natural English, whereas Tyler has gone for accuracy (and all those delicious footnotes)
I'm not surprised many people will run a mile from this- in part for the fact it's practically set in a different world, and in part for the sheer length.
For those unfamiliar with classical Japanese literature or the Heian Period, the Genji Monogatari is probably extremely hard t...more
Riana Elizabeth
"The Tale of Genji" is thought to be the first novel written in history, so the significance of that alone would save it from a one-star rating. Also, the translation was clear and easily understandable, without leading the reader into those common "Huh?" moments that come from poor translation. However, I'm a product of my (ADHD, instant gratification) times and I have to rate this book as such.
Though a classic (first published in 1021), this 1120 page Japanese tome was too ponderous for me. Th...more
This is my favorite translation, though I still have to read the most recent one, of this magnificent book. This has been hailed as "the world's first novel," having been written in the 11th century by Lady Murasaki, a member of the Japanese imperial court. It is a completely engrossing work, drawing one into the complex and fascinating world of love, politics and courtly intrigue surrounding the "Shining Prince," Genji. I won't begin to summarize the story; suffice it to say that the juxtaposit...more
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The World's Liter...: Spirit Possession in Genji 1 15 Oct 21, 2012 08:43AM  
The World's Liter...: Chapters 14-33 14 58 Sep 30, 2012 03:19PM  
The World's Liter...: Chapter 6 4 25 Sep 29, 2012 10:17AM  
The World's Liter...: Chapters 1-5 11 42 Sep 18, 2012 02:41PM  
The World's Liter...: The Tale of Genji: Pre-Reading 39 47 Aug 29, 2012 10:11PM  
The World's Liter...: Chapters 42-44 1 4 Aug 28, 2012 03:50PM  
The World's Liter...: Chapter Summaries 3 16 Aug 28, 2012 03:34PM  
  • The Pillow Book
  • The Tale of the Heike
  • Dream of the Red Chamber
  • The Recognition of 'Sakuntala: A Play in Seven Acts
  • The Sound of the Mountain
  • The Confessions of Lady Nijō
  • The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan
  • Anthology of Japanese Literature: From the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century
  • As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams: Recollections of a Woman in Eleventh-Century Japan
  • The Makioka Sisters
  • And Then
  • The Wild Geese
  • Tales of Moonlight and Rain
  • Diary of a Madman and Other Stories
  • بوستان سعدی
  • Five Women Who Loved Love: Amorous Tales from 17th-Century Japan
  • The Gossamer Years: The Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches
Murasaki Shikibu, or Lady Murasaki as she is sometimes known in English, was a Japanese novelist, poet, and a maid of honor of the imperial court during the Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese between about 1000 and 1008, one of the earliest and most famous novels in human history. "Murasaki Shikibu" was not her real name; her actual name is unkn...more
More about Murasaki Shikibu...
The Diary of Lady Murasaki The Tale of Genji Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan Storia di Genji. Il principe splendente The Tale of Genji: Scenes from the World's First Novel (Illustrated Japanese Classics)

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“Real things in the darkness seem no realer than dreams.” 41 likes
“The world know it not; but you, Autumn, I confess it: your wind at night-fall stabs deep into my heart” 22 likes
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