Murasaki Shikibu

The Tale of Genji : (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

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Written in the 11th century, Lady Murasaki's account of court life in the city of Heian, Japan, stands as one of the undisputed monuments of world literature and one of the first novels in the modern sense of the term.

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Written in the 11th century, Lady Murasaki's account of court life in the city of Heian, Japan, stands as one of the undisputed monuments of world literature and one of the first novels in the modern sense of the term.The world’s first novel, in a translation that is “likely to be the definitive edition . . . for many years to come” (The Wall Street Journal)

The inspiration behind The Metropolitan Museum of Art's "The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated" -- Now through June 16 at The Met Fifth Avenue

A Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, with flaps and deckle-edged paper

Written in the eleventh century, this exquisite portrait of courtly life in medieval Japan is widely celebrated as the world’s first novel. Genji, the Shining Prince, is the son of an emperor. He is a passionate character whose tempestuous nature, family circumstances, love affairs, alliances, and shifting political fortunes form the core of this magnificent epic. Royall Tyler’s superior translation is detailed, poetic, and superbly true to the Japanese original while allowing the modern reader to appreciate it as a contemporary treasure. Supplemented with detailed notes, glossaries, character lists, and chronologies to help the reader navigate the multigenerational narrative, this comprehensive edition presents this ancient tale in the grand style that it deserves.


Series Title
Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition
Penguin Publishing Group
Book Format
Original Languages
Number of Pages
Murasaki Shikibu
The Tale of Genji
Publication Date
November, 2002
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
9.15 x 6.24 x 1.90 Inches

Customer Reviews

Average Rating:(3.9)out of 5 stars
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1-5 of 16 reviews
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

What a great book! Ad...

What a great book! Admittedly it took me two goes to read it, but the first time i tried I was commuting to work by walking several miles and it is a great big brick of a novel. Now i drive everywhere thats much less of a problem. It also took me quite a while to get into - the elliptical way of referring to people and events was quite confusing at first, as are the very japanese sensibilities. However, well worth persavereing with. I'd almost like to learn japanese so I coudl go and read it in the original, but somehow I can't see that happening. I'd also like to read other translations, though by all accounts the [[Waley]] version has less to do with the original text than you would suppose from a translation. I'll have to keep an eye out for other versions.

Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

This is a phenomenal n...

This is a phenomenal novel. Difficult to read, yes; but definitely a worthwhile effort. If offers a panorama of characters surrounding the lives and loves of Genji and Murasaki. It opens a window into life of ancient Japan, a time when admiration for beauty prevailed.

Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

The Tale of Genji, wha...

The Tale of Genji, what can you say? It might be considered the world's first psychological novel, but some consider it deadly boring, some consider it a soap opera set in Heian Japan, others can never get past Genji's so-called "Oedipus Complex." I find a wonderful, relaxing escape to a long ago society. Dig beneath the surface of Genji's numerous romantic escapades and you'll find that he really is a well drawn character, with as many flaws and merits. His journey is worth following. If you are only going to read one translation of the Genji, make sure it's the Royall Tyler one. This is a beautiful, beautiful translation. Seidensticker can be rather dry, and Waley can have some rather jarring anachronism, but this one just flows so smoothly and is true to the somewhat intuitive style of the original Japanese. This is also a book that you shouldn't read in a hurry. Take the time to savor it. Maybe even just a chapter here, a chapter there. Curl up with a cup of tea and just drift for a while.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

The story is wonderful...

The story is wonderful, at once grounded in an idealized Heian Japan and universal. The trappings are peculiar to the setting, of course, but the motivations, emotions, and responses of the characters are perfectly intelligible to the modern reader. In other words, it's everything you'd expect from a work that has the distinction of being the world's oldest novel. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's long and complex, which makes it a difficult read. Murasaki Shikibu didn't use any names for her characters when she wrote it. Instead she referred to characters rather obliquely by things like title or place of residence, which often change over the course of the story. I've found that it's a book you cannot put down and come back to later and be able to pick up right where you left off. It's too complex for that. Rather, you have to be able to dedicate yourself to reading the book from start to finish, which is difficult to do given its length. Casual readers will probably prefer an abridged version of this classic. Liza Dalby's Tale of Murasaki is also an excellent and accessible introduction to this work.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

The Tale of Genji is a...

The Tale of Genji is a rare glimpse into eleventh century Japan. Murasaki Shikibu does a magnificent job describing the life at the imperial court. The story follows the life of Genji who is the son of the emperor, but his mother is of very low rank so he is unable to become an heir. Even though Genji cannot become an heir to the thrown he is the jewel of the imperial court, being talented in everything that was valued at the time including: poetry, dance, koto playing, and a keen eye for ascetics. Some could say that Genji is the equivalent of the European Renaissance man. The good looks that the people at court thought would lead to Genji having a short life, proved to be wrong and ended up turning Genji into s true ladies man. Most of the story is consumed by Genji's affairs, which can be a bit tiresome and confusing. Genji chose some rather unexpected characters to become his lovers including a little girl that he brings to the palace to shape into the perfect wife. One good thing about all of Genji's affairs is it gives the reader the chance to read many different Waka, which are two lined poems that would be exchanged between lovers. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Japanese history, since it is written by someone who lived during the Heian period. This book is also good for anyone who truly enjoys classics because it is considered one of the WORLD's first novels. However if you don't mind lengthy books, I would recommend reading the unabridged version which has 54 chapters compared to the 12 available in this version. One plus to the abridged version is it is full of woodblock printings inspired by the novel.

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