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The Tale of Genji (源氏物語 - Genji Monogatari)

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3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  6,284 ratings  ·  528 reviews
Completed in the early 11th century, The Tale of Genji is considered the supreme masterpiece of Japanese prose literature, and one of the world's earliest novels. A work of great length, it comprises six parts, the first part of which (also called The Tale of Genji) is reprinted here. The exact origins of this remarkable saga of the nobility of Heian Japan remain somewhat ...more
Paperback, 190 pages
Published August 24th 2000 by Dover Publications (first published 1008)
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Akemi G Japan has a long history. The Tale Of Genji was written in early 1000's, set in late 900's (recent past for them). It was a time of relative peace.…moreJapan has a long history. The Tale Of Genji was written in early 1000's, set in late 900's (recent past for them). It was a time of relative peace. Genji probably never killed even a squirrel.

The warrior class rose to political power later. This doesn't mean there were no wars and battles earlier--there were. However, the warriors in the early time were employed by aristocrats. The rise of the warlords is depicted well in The Tale Of Heike, which is based on historical events in late 1100's. Their time continued until the late 1800's. (less)
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Community Reviews

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Hadrian

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
Aubrey
The person who convinced me to read this is no longer on Goodreads, so I cannot tell you what meanings I thought I would discover within this work. Even the collective 'meanings' is a poor word choice, because my relationship with literature is one to which only the pair of mentor and mentee of the male variety has claim in the bowels of history and pop culture. It is my lot to be mentee to a few of the living and far more of the dead of various forms and nationalities; the only commonality is w ...more
Deborah
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
Nozomi
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
...more
David
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
Smenkhare
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
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
Stephen
La poésie veut quelque chose d'énorme de barbare et de sauvage.
(Poetry craves something enormous, barbarous and wild).
-Diderot

I would much rather meet Murasaki than I would the quirky and observant Sei Shonagon or the sexually charged, emotionally volatile, religiously inspired Nijo, fun though those two might be, as the more substantive woman of the tradition. It would take some time breaking down her barriers, but once through them the culture she'd impart would be tremendous. I know I am of a
...more
bup
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
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
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
umberto
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
Evan
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
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
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
Squire
May 27, 2015 Squire rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of world literature
A book that was intimidating at first, with it's massiveness and heavily foot-noted nature. It looked more like a textbook than a novel and I, being a slow reader, wasn't certain I'd be able to get through it be fore year's end. But, as is usually the case, my patience and persistence was rewarded with an unusually engrossing reading experience that (along with The Tale of the Heike) has made 2015 one of the best years of reading I've had in a long while.

An 11th century Japanese novel that cele
...more
Gary
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
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
Marina Sofia
Not as keen on this translation as the Seidensticker one, but it contains a wealth of additional information and footnotes. Still one of the most amazing books ever written - although the plight of women (and the importance of power, rank and influence) struck me more forcibly this time round. The Uji chapters remain my favourite, because of their tight storyline, smaller cast of characters and deeper psychological insight. It feels more modern.
For a fuller discussion of Genji - so full, in fact
...more
Akemi G
The world's very first, and possibly still the BEST, novel written by a Japanese woman! How can I not recommend this?

It was written in the early 1000's (impossible to pinpoint the year because it was written and released over many years), primarily for the court ladies. I have read several versions of modern Japanese translation, part of the original text, and I have a copy of the Tyler translation, which I use more as a reference. I have not read other English translations, but I can say Tyler
...more
Eadweard
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
Dan
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
Miranda
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.

Why?

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
Tim
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
Toshio
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
Kate
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 Gen
...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
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The World's Liter...: Spirit Possession in Genji 1 19 Oct 21, 2012 08:43AM  
The World's Liter...: Chapters 14-33 14 65 Sep 30, 2012 03:19PM  
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  • The Tale of the Heike
  • The Pillow Book
  • 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 Confessions of Lady Nijō
  • The Gossamer Years: The Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan
  • The Dream of the Red Chamber
  • The Sound of the Mountain
  • The Wild Geese
  • The Makioka Sisters
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches
  • The Recognition of 'Sakuntala: A Play in Seven Acts
  • The Kojiki: Records of Ancient Matters
  • Five Women Who Loved Love: Amorous Tales from 17th-Century Japan
  • Rivalry: A Geisha's Tale
  • The Waiting Years
  • Sanshirō
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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 Japanese Literature Including Selections from Genji Monogatari and Classical Poetry and Drama of Japan

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“Real things in the darkness seem no realer than dreams.” 56 likes
“The world know it not; but you, Autumn, I confess it: your wind at night-fall stabs deep into my heart” 28 likes
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