bup's Reviews > The Tale of Genji

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
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Apr 02, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: 2008, not-1001-but-the-list-is-stupid
Read in April, 2008

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 commentators conclude, the attendant here mentioned to be a boy, others contend, this garment was worn by females also when they rode."

You can't blame that on Murasaki, Kencho. I've seen the original scrolls. No footnotes.

Also, this edition (ISBN 0-8048-3256-0) has different chapters than Wikipedia says it should (17 chapters versus 54), and is 208 pages long, whereas other editions are ~1,200. On the other hand, I kind of read 1,200 pages because I had to reread each sentence about six times. I have no idea what I read. Maybe the real "Tale of Genji" *is* about the little dog.

The thing I read, I *think*, is about a decadent quasi-royal slut, but it's hard to say because the intimate encounters are all implied. On the other hand, there wasn't much of anything else. It mentioned he had a sword once, but that was probably a double-entendre. So no swash-buckling, no comedy, no suspense. Mostly I read something that's like listening to a person on a phone describe a trashy chick-flick they're watching. It had that "once removed" feeling to it. I never felt like I was reading the story, just what somebody who had read the story felt like telling.

Read a different edition.
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