The Tale of Genji

I first attempted to read The Tale of Genji several years ago. I couldn’t get into it at the time, so I set it aside. Years later, I wished to attempt it again thanks to my historical fiction challenge. However, my local library no longer carried the text, and I had to interlibrary loan it. (Note to self, never interlibrary loan two very long novels at the same damn time). I had hoped my opinion would change, that I would come to like The Tale of Genji. However, my initial opinion stands. I just don’t find The Tale of Genji interesting.

The Tale of Genji is, obviously, the tale of Prince Genji, a younger son of the Old Emperor. The tale follows Genji’s amorous life in court and as an exile. And after his death, the tale follows his “son,” Kaoru. From material I’ve read, much of the focus is on Genji’s amorous pursuits and lush descriptions of the fashions of the time. 

I find it all dull.

To be honest, reading The Tale of Genji is like reading fanfiction. Not the fanfiction where one desperately wishes the fanfic writer actually wrote the source material, but the fanfiction that makes one deeply embarrassed to have read it in the first place. 

I don’t know if this is a problem with the source material or if it is a specific problem with the translation. To date, I’ve only read the older Waley translation. Maybe the later two translations won’t have the same problems that the Waley translation does. 

The question is, do I really want to find out? I don’t know. Give me a few years. 

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Posted on July 9, 2014, in Books. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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