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Summary

Murasaki Shikibu, born into the middle ranks of the aristocracy during the Heian period (794-1185 CE), wrote The Tale of Genji, widely considered the world's first novel, during the early years of the 11th century. Expansive, compelling, and sophisticated in its representation of ethical concerns and aesthetic ideals, Murasaki's tale came to occupy a central place in Japan's remarkable history of artistic achievement and is now recognized as a masterpiece of world literature.

The Tale of Genji is presented here in a flowing new translation for contemporary listeners, who will discover in its depiction of the culture of the imperial court the rich complexity of human experience that simultaneously resonates with and challenges their own. Washburn embeds annotations for accessibility and clarity and renders the poetry into triplets to create prosodic analogues of the original.

©2015 Dennis Washburn (translation) (P)2019 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The Tale of Genji, Volume 1

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Beginning of World Literature

A thousand-year-old masterpiece does not need too much introduction. The reason of review is to state 2 things (1) this is the BEST translation (2) Brian Nishii is the BEST voice artist. Please Mr. Nishii, read us more Japanese literature!

6 people found this helpful

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Riveting

It opens a world where the art of subtle considerations is key to success

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anthony
  • 24-11-19

Masterful Performance by Brian Nishii

I’ve listened to many other of Brian Nishii’s recordings of Japanese literature, and this is his best yet. The perfect choice for Genji, which it’s nice to finally see in unabridged audiobook. I will definitely purchase part 2 and hope to see more Japanese lit in audiobook with Nishii. The Washburn translation also works especially well in this format.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Caroline
  • 21-01-20

Great Classic title, outstanding narrator

I have been waiting a long time for this in audio. It lives up to its classic status, portraying complex characters throughout their intertwined lives. It is a fascinating experience that involves living for a few weeks in a culture that is at once totally ‘other’ and very believable. Fascinating to see what could be created while living imprisoned behind screens your whole life.

Brian Nishii is almost unique in audiobooks in both pronouncing the Japanese in what sounds like a very authentic way and maintaining the character voices through 50 plus hours. (I have listened to many excruciating hours of bad/phony French, German, Spanish, Russian, Hungarian, Swedish, etc etc names and accents.) The women have womanish, but not annoying, voices. The most important thing is, however, that he communicates the author’s clearly ambiguous, perhaps conflicted, attitudes toward her characters actions and thoughts.

Highly recommended. (Note, I preordered the original, one volume format. It’s worth using two credits for the two volume format.)

9 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-02-20

Tales of Genji

Genji is described as perfect, but he is not. Generally, the story is tedious and primarily of historical significance, but it does provide insight into aspects of Japanese culture as to the importance of status and appearance. Beauty and birth are more important than good behavior. If you are discreet and of high status, bad behavior is ignored. Sentimentality is profound (tears flow constantly). Despite this, there are details of geography and seasons that are wonderful. I enjoyed the poetry the most. Occasionally, the author is quite humorous. I plan to trudge through volume two and hope to hear from other listeners.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Matthew Lubin
  • 26-04-20

Wild and dramatic from beginning to end

I laughed. I swooned. I was disgusted, even horrified at the plot of this book. As a protagonist, Genji is.... a lot.

Nishii does a great job reading. He changes his voice (some voices more rough, some more feminine, so more smooth) so it stays interesting even into the 30th hour. I go back and read some of the parts that were particularly shocking, because many things that happen in this book that would probably be banned in todays books was obscured through flowery and indirect language but once you really ingest it, it's like... wtf Genji?

I can just imagine the court ladies of the Heian period passing a chapter of this around and chatting about it like people do today with the Bachelor

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  • Shadow125125
  • 25-05-21

has not aged well

this story was a struggle to get through. while the translator did an amazing job he fails to explain the significance of all the rituals and behaviors that are carried throughout. also this is a story you HAVE to remind your self is a thousand years old and from a different culture. because by modern standards Gengi is a terrible person but in the book he's constantly pardoned because he is so beautiful, talented and perfect.

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  • Michael
  • 03-06-20

Reflecting dew, frozen across ages, fall warmly from my cheeks....

This work is so true today as it was then, a thousand years ago. This Is another reminder that our emotions and passions remain unchanged.

The translation and performance must be compared to the spender of Genji himself. No matter how many times we are reminded of Genji’s magnificence so too does this performance hold us in the fold time, bringing the story to life.

I cannot say enough to compliment this work.

One suggestion. Read the authors introduction after, not before. It may colour your expectations and I felt opened with apologetic comments about the customs of the time that should be well understood by most discerning listeners today.

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  • JK
  • 09-05-21

LONG, BUT WELL WORTH READING.

This book was mentioned in Great Courses: “ History of World Literature “ by professor Grand L. Voth .
I listened to volumes one and two.
There are many characters and that can be challenging when listening to a book.
You can find a list of names when you research the Internet.
Brian Nishii is the right narrator. Thank you,JK

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  • MargaRose
  • 29-12-20

A splendid reading of a sublime translation.

Especially appreciated are the poems, the descriptions of pre-Anthropocene nature and seasons, and the various characters' excited anticipation of predictable seasonal change. Shikibu probes human nature and relationships with insight, playfulness, and compassion. The Tale, ostensibly about Genji, is mostly about women and most likely originally for women and their daughters. I love that Shikibu's characters express delight at, even preference for, birth of a daughter, lavishing loving attention, praise and careful training on their daughters. Life in the women's quarter is devoted to artistic perfection, beauty behind the fan, and the sublime entertainments of Koto, brush work, and poetry, but Shikibu pulls back the screen to reveal the women's vulnerability, their fear, confusion and sorrow when unwanted attention threatens or an outrage is perpetrated. Shikibu shines a little candle on this dynamic of sexual power and privilege, so tenacious, still not yet overcome even in the present age. But Shikibu's Genji, perhaps surprisingly so for her first readers, was a special man among all those other callow fellows, because he at least had some self-insight and possessed an earnest desire to make amends, vowing to never abandon any of his conquests. It would seem that, however varied the cultural context, still universal are our human foibles and follies, and so love for Shikibu's work and the characters she created endures.

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  • Avie
  • 13-07-20

I may not agree with but I couldn’t stop listening

I had to keep reminding myself that I was reading a Tale and that this was from a different time when women were regarded as second class citizens. We all make mistakes as humans but what’s admirable about the characters in this novel is how they each fought their own desires to make things right like Fujitsubo. While on the other hand, you have the virtuousity of Tamakazura. As a woman of the current times, with the freedom we now possess, we may not think of these things anymore or take these for consideration. Such a splendid read! I love the performance of the narrator. I just used another credit for Volume Two.

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  • Jessica Amzoll
  • 12-07-21

Good from a historical standpoint

This s one of those books that I've been wanting to read for ages since it's important historical text but I was struggling through the translation that I owned cause it was so dry. It's MUCH better as an audiobook and the translation that's being read is also a lot easier to understand. However, hearing the words read out loud makes the pedophilia, grooming and rape SO MUCH MORE uncomfortable. Brian Nishii does an incredible job and doesn't shy away from expressing all the morally dubious things Genji does with proper emotion and gusto.