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 eleventh 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 readers, 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 sets off interior monologues with italics for fluid reading, embeds some annotations for accessibility and clarity, and renders the poetry into triplets to create prosodic analogues of the original.
About the Author
Lady Murasaki Shikibu (c. 973 or 978-c. 1014 or 1031 CE) was a member of the famed Fujiwara clan--one of the most influential families of the Heian period. Her literary ability quickly won her a place in the entourage of the Empress Akiko. After the death of her husband, Murasaki Shikibu immersed herself in Buddhism, and the religion's influences permeate her writing.
Dennis Washburn is the Burlington northern Foundation professor of Asian studies at Dartmouth College. He holds a Ph.D. in Japanese Language and Literature from Yale University and has authored and edited studies on a range of literary and cultural topics. These include: The Dilemma of the Modern in Japanese Fiction; Translating Mount Fuji: Modern Japanese Fiction and the Ethics of Identity; and The Affect of Difference: Representations of Race in East Asian Empire. In addition to his scholarly publications, he has translated several works of Japanese fiction, including Yokomitsu Riichi's Shanghai, Tsushima Tsushima Tuko's Laughing Wolf, and Mizukami Tsutomu's The Temple of the Wild Geese, for which he was awarded the US-Japan Friendship Commission Prize. In 2004 he was awarded the Japan Foreign Minister's citation for promoting cross-cultural understanding.
Murasaki watched the sexual maneuverings, the social plots, the marital politics, the swirl of slights and flatteries that went on around her, with the keen, sometimes sardonic, and always worldly eyes of a medieval Jane Austen.
A formidable accomplishment. The language is beautiful, the footnotes are helpful yet unobtrusive: Washburn has performed a great service by making this groundbreaking novel, written in the eleventh century, available to the English-speaking world in a version worthy of the Japanese masterpiece.--Edith Grossman
This new version by Dennis Washburn, a professor at Dartmouth, falls somewhere between Seidensticker's reader-friendly translation and Tyler's more stringently literal one, resulting in a fluid, elegant rendition.
Award-winning translator Dennis Washburn's lucid and accessible rendering will introduce new readers to the entrancing narrative world of this great classic.--David Lurie, Columbia University
Washburn's translation is a superb achievement. He fully captures the enthralling quality of the original, with its reliance on dialogue and interior monologues, and finely tunes the diction to the age, status and emotional state of the characters, as well as to the demands of the social situation...With exquisite irony, the narrative progressively reveals that the seductive myth of romance is quite empty at its core. Washburn's version brings this out powerfully.