The Tale of Genji

The Tale of Genji

If you've been reading this blog recently, you know that I've been reading (and enjoying) The Tale of Genji.  I'll do my best not to reiterate anything I've said already, but that shouldn't be hard considering there are so many great things happening in this book.

First of all, the briefest of synopses.  The Tale of Genji follows 4 generations of individuals in Japan's Imperial court during the late 10th Century (which is also when it was originally written).  Though Genji is the main character, he is not the only one we get to know in this epic tale.

Ultimately, though, it's not what happens in The Tale of Genji that makes it so appealing (not to say that there isn't a lot that happens.  Here's a quick rundown off the top of my head: sex, rape, death, cuckolding, spirit possession, exorcism, suicide, inclement weather, exile, love, jealousy, infidelity.)  It is the characters, and the reality of their hopes, fears, joys, heartaches, desires, and transgressions that make Genji such a compelling work of fiction.  Or, in Genji's own words:

"Not that tales accurately describe any particular person, rather, the telling begins when all those things the teller longs to have pass on to future generations – whatever there is about the way people live their lives, for better or worse, that is a sight to see or a wonder to hear – overflows the teller’s heart" (461).

I think I have already given The Tale of Genji the highest recommendation that I can - I spent the last month reading, and enjoying, all 1120 pages.  At no point did I even consider giving up, or reading something else instead.  I never got bored, I never even motivated myself with another book (which I do all the time).  In fact, the only frustration I did feel in the last month was frustration over not having more time to read.  If you have the opportunity, you should definitely pick up The Tale of Genji.  Between its individual style and unique place in history and literature, you won't ever read anything else quite like it.

"How true it is that bitter experience yields fond memories!" (815).

Comments

Mome Rath
Mome Rath on 07/30/2010 9:03 p.m.

Congratulations on finishing The Tale of Genji! That's quite an accomplishment. I'm impressed that it kept you entertained the entire way through. Since I'm on a goal to finish 100 books this year, I don't think I can make time in my schedule for The Tale of Genji in 2010, but I may have to try sometime later.

Scott
Scott on 07/30/2010 9:18 p.m.

That's a great goal - how are you doing so far? I don't have a specific number in mind - I'm just trying to read as much as I can! If I include audio books, though, I'll probably read around 70 or so by the end of the year.

Mome Rath
Mome Rath on 07/31/2010 4:39 p.m.

I'm up to 63 so far. I figure that if I can get to the low or mid 70's by the end of August, I can ease up some for the rest of year. I'm trying to keep a good balance between fiction and non-fiction, and that has worked pretty well so far. Good for you for aiming for 70 -- that's more than I got read last year!

Christy
Christy on 08/03/2010 10:34 a.m.

Congratulations on finishing The Tale of Genji, although it sounds like it was never a chore, which is awesome. The size still scares me sort of, but now that it's on my radar, I'll think about putting it on my to-read docket at some point.

Scott
Scott on 08/09/2010 7:23 a.m.

Wow, you're really flying through books this year. Hope your finding some great ones!

Scott
Scott on 08/09/2010 7:24 a.m.

I completely understand - there's a reason I waited 2 years after buying it to actually read it! Still, it's absolutely worth it, even if it takes years to actually get around to reading it.

tezalez
tezalez on 06/21/2011 7:37 p.m.

I think is one of the best books I've read (so far) . I agree, it was never a chore, I absoluterly loved it. There are differeces between translations which can make a version easier to read than other.

Scott
Scott on 06/24/2011 2:42 p.m.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

I'm curious - did you read one of the other versions (not Royall Tyler)? How did you like it?

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