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The Tale of Genji

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  8,163 Ratings  ·  698 Reviews
This is the prose masterpiece of the Heian era of the 10th and 11th centuries, which is recognized as a great period in Japanese literature. It is an account of the intricate, exquisite, highly ordered court culture which made such a masterpiece possible.
Hardcover, Everyman's Library Classics, 1184 pages
Published 1992 by Everyman's Library (first published 1008)
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Rita I think it would very tedious for the average 15 yr-old, although I think they could understand it.
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 warrior class is depicted well in The Tale Of The Heike, which is based on historical events in late 1100's. Their time continued until the late 1800's. (less)
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Michael Finocchiaro
The Tale of Genji is one of the hallmarks of classic Japanese literature - the equivalent to, say, the Canterbury Tales or the Divine Comedy or Dox Quixote - from which thousands of pieces of art, pottery and writings have been inspired. It is a sweeping bildungsroman about a Japanese prince in the 10th/11th century Heian court in Kyoto. Well, ex-prince because the emperor had to strip him of his title for political reasons. The tale has over 400 characters and is a true masterpiece of style and ...more
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
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
Nozomi
Feb 06, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  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
umberto
Oct 12, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tales, japan
3.75 stars

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
...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
Smenkhare
Apr 15, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
David
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worldliterature
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
Stephen
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Akemi G
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Justin Evans
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Utterly meaningless star rating alert: what else could you give it?

Now, granted, I suspect a lot of readers are just like me, in that we'll go hunting for really good things about this book, even if, on the surface, it perhaps does less for us than most 1400 page medieval tales. And I'm not afraid to admit that the overwhelming impression I have now is that this is astonishingly long, and astonishingly old, and despite those two things is easily readable as what we today call a novel.

The probl
...more
Richard Derus
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Annie
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese
You know, this book is a lot of things (what 1000+ pager isn’t) but it’s nothing if not truthful. The character of Genji can be summed up in four totally accurate lines from the book:

“Genji felt like a child thief. The role amused him.”

“Difficult and unconventional relationships always interested him.”

“Self-loathing was not enough to overcome temptation.”

“Genji’s troubles, which he had brought upon himself, were nothing new.”


Genji is a total pedophile. Once, in true pervert style, he grooms a li
...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
Sookie
During the course of reading A tale of Genji, a lot of jidaigeki (period Japanese drama) thta I have watched in the past decade suddenly started to make sense. And, of course, a part of Japanese culture in itself is deeply rooted in these timeless stories.

The book is written by a woman of noble class written for women of her own class. The writing is inviting, intimate and is almost like sharing a secret. Shikibu-san employs subtlety, metaphors and euphemisms to drive home a point; its both frus
...more
Ana-Maria Negrilă
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classical
Scrisă la începutul secolului al XI-lea de către Murasaki Shikibu, Povestea lui Genji a fost pe drept considerată una dintre cele mai importante creații ale literaturii universale. Cartea prezintă într-un mod fragmentar povestea vieții prințului Genji, supranumit Strălucitorul (Hikaru), și a numeroaselor sale povești de dragoste. Redactată în perioada Heian, acțiunea este plasată câțiva ani mai devreme și, cu toate că majoritatea personajelor sunt rod al ficțiunii, anumite întâmplări povestite f ...more
Larou
After having read all six of the Chinese Classic Novels, it seemed like a logical continuation to go on to the Classic Japanese novel Genji monogatari; not just because of the geographical proximity but also because Japanese culture was greatly influenced by China back then (the early 11th century) and I was expecting something in a similar vein. As it turned out, I was profoundly mistaken in that assumption – The Tale of Genji is something quite different and fascinating in its own, unique way. ...more
Eadweard
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 ruling class, the way they addressed each other, their daily rituals, their festivals, religious events... etc.

Most chapters are episodic and the book could roughly be divided in two parts; the first one dealing with the life of Gen
...more
Ann Klefstad
Dec 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Pantelis
Mar 19, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
To read in tandem with Laclos' "Les Liaisons Dangereuses"...
Gary
May 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese
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
Mark
The sphere of Genji is the incredibly narrow one of Japan's Classical aristocracy, and its being situated in a period of long stability means that although temporally it covers a fair bit of ground (four generations) it is otherwise restricted socially, geographically, politically. Psychologically it is more diverse, and strikingly so in comparison to European literature of even several hundred years later - consider the Icelandic sagas, which are far greater in scope and yet almost entirely dev ...more
Duane
Supposedly, the first novel ever written. That fact alone compelled me to read it, to check it off my classics list. Parts of it were interesting from a cultural and historical aspect, but it was long and boring for the most part. I generously gave it 3 stars because it's 1,000 years old.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  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
Miranda
Jan 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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4739
Murasaki Shikibu, or Lady Murasaki as she is sometimes known in English (Japanese: 紫式部), 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 act ...more
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