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Read Along: The Tale of Genji

GenjiThat I was in the middle of the controversial Chapter 6 of The Satanic Verses barred me from starting The Tale of Genji, the latest read-along selection. I’m reading the Penguin Classics deluxe edition, translated by Royall Tyler. All references, quotes, and discussion of events henceforward would refer to this edition. I do notice there are abridged editions of this book.

From the editorial note:
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.

The Tale of Genji is divided into two separate stories. The first part of the story is about Prince Genji, the son of the emperor and a low ranking consort who dies due to her rivals’ jealousy. The second part of the story are the grandchildren of Genji and it takes place after Genji has died. At 1216 pages, the book is divided into 54 chapters, I plan to attempt 3 to 4 chapters a week. The first four chapters total about 80 pages. This easy pace hopefully will put us at the finishing line in early fall. Show a hand if you’re reading along!

41 Responses

  1. I’m in! When are you planning to start?

  2. Jackie (Farm Lane Books):
    Ha! I intended for this month…but got very sidetracked by The Satanic Verses, which I still haven’t finished. But I’ll start reading a chapter or two of Genji tomorrow. 🙂

  3. I think I missed out by not keeping up with everyone during the Gone With the Wind read along, so I’m going to make an effort to keep up with you this time. I should be able to start on Thursday.

  4. Jackie, you are amazing! You are also in the middle of that little 900 pager too! I’m going to pass on this one and live vicariously though you all!

  5. I’ve had a deluxe two-volume copy of this on my shelf for several years. I think I will join in. I’m not making any promises, but I should be able to keep up once school gets out next week.

  6. I also have this edition, but then since I can also read Chinese, I am wondering if it is better to read the Chinese translation instead.

  7. Very tempting but I cannot commit to another read along. Will have to be content reading your reviews.

    Send me your address? You are one of the winners for the Asian Heritage Month giveaway.

  8. Thanks for reading this for me Matt!! I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it but I look forward to your posts about the book!!

  9. I hope to join in. I’ve been having trouble finding a copy, so I may have to order one on line. I may be trailing a bit.

  10. I’m in for this one. I have the abridged version so I need to grab this edition at the bookstore!

  11. Jackie (Farm Lane Books):
    It seems to me that Thursday would be good for everyone. We should be on equal footing. I’m still reading the last chapter of Satanic Verses.

  12. Sandy:
    Cheer for us. 🙂

  13. CB James:
    That would be awesome you’re joining us. I’m planning to do this on a slower pace, so everyone can be keeping up. 🙂

  14. eric:
    You may read whatever edition that suits you. I’m sure the perusal of a different edition, or a different language, may bring new insights to the discussion. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  15. Frances:
    Aww, thank you so much Frances! 🙂

  16. Staci:
    Hope you will enjoy the discussion that unfolds here. I’ve always been wanting to read it. 🙂

  17. Greg S:
    Don’t worry Greg. We won’t be starting until at least Thursday. 🙂

  18. John:
    Isn’t the abridged version really short, like 250 pages? The Penguin Classics edition, without illustrations, is about 400 pages. This deluxe edition, with pictures and illustrations, and a bigger print, is 1216 pages. It’s easier to read and you can open the book flat.

  19. I’ve read the first part. It’s a wonderful book and would love to find the second volume.

  20. Greg C:
    Yay, so are you going to join in? 🙂

  21. I’d love to join in. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf for a while now and I probably wouldn’t make it through on my own.

  22. Oh man, I haven’t started yet! I better put down my other books and get to it! Are we linking to each other or how does this work?

  23. fleurfisher:
    Hooray! I don’t set a timeline for the reading. But I encourage everyone to read three or four chapters a week and post reading notes along the way. 🙂

  24. Rebecca:
    I’m so glad you’re joining in. Just link your reading note posts to my blog and it will ping back to me. 🙂

  25. P. S. I found a copy and have dipped into it. I was slightly apprehensive, but now I think I will enjoy it.

  26. […] Matthew is hosting a read along for The Tale of Genji. The plan is to read 3-4 chapters a week, starting today. The Tale of Genji is am imposing 54 chapters long. This means that you will have to endure Genji posts for a minimum of 14 weeks – that means they won’t end until at least the middle of September! Sorry! […]

  27. Genji is a major player! If I had it to read again I wish I would have kept a tally of all his hook-ups.

  28. Greg S
    I’m glad you have enjoyed it so far. It is daunting. I haven’t started yet, gonna catch up!

  29. Jessica Coleman:
    Hope you’ll join us reading. 🙂

  30. I’m definitely in! Have been waiting for this. 😀 I do still need to pick up a copy so I’ll be a little behind but hope to catch up very soon!

  31. I’m in though I may get a bit of a late start.

  32. claire:
    No worries, love to have you read along with me! I’m trailing a bit behind as well…been a bit out of the loop after Satanic Verses. 🙂

  33. Amy @ My Friend Amy:
    No worries about the delay. I’m having a slow start as well. Welcome to the read along! 🙂

  34. That’s a lot of pages! Although I’m interesed in learning about early Japanese and Chinese history, I think I’l wait until I read your review.
    Best wishes.

  35. […] is hosting a read along for The Tale of Genji. In this first week we have read chapters 1 – 4, so in this post I will try to summarise my first […]

  36. I have been meaning to read this for years. I bought the Tyler edition for the Japanese Literature Challenge 2 hosted by Bellezza and then ended up opting to read shorter works. It would certainly be less daunting and more interesting to read along with other people. I would like to join in but cannot make any promises. Can I give it a shot and see how it goes?

  37. […] is hosting a read along for The Tale of Genji. This week I have read chapters 10 – 13. I am finally getting used to reading The Tale of Genji. I […]

  38. […] on [211] Masquerade – Walte…The Tale of Genji: C… on Read Along: The Tale of G…bibliophile23 on [211] Masquerade – […]

  39. […] is hosting a read along for The Tale of Genji. This week I have been studying the different translations and have come to realise that my Royall […]

  40. Satanic verses? Considering Japanese religion of the 11th century was paganistic and did not recognize a satanic figure in the traditional Christian sense, I’m not sure how anything in CH 6, let alone the rest of the book, could be interpreted as “satanic”.

    With all due respect to the Christian religion, its foolish notions of heaven and hell go way too far in ruining the enjoyment of a good book.

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