The Tale of Genji – choosing a translation

All covers for The Tale of Genji

I've heard about The Tale of Genji, and thought I might like to read it. However, there are a daunting number of translations available! They're enumerated in the Wikipedia article.

Here's my rough summary:
0) Murasaki Shikibu - the original Japanese author.
1) Kencho Suematsu - first translation, considered poor quality.
2) Arthur Waley - many errors and changes from Murasaki's original.
3) Edward G. Seidensticker - closer to the original than Waley, but still makes changes.
4) Royall Tyler - more footnoting explaining cultural aspects.

There is an excellent review on Amazon, which provides direct quotations from several versions of the Tale of Genji on Amazon. Also, this review contrasts the Siedensticker against the Tyler version.

In the end, I think I'm going for either the poetic Seidensticker version, or Waley's more complex writing.

About Jeff Fitzsimons

Jeff Fitzsimons is a software engineer in the California Bay Area. Technical specialties include C++, Win32, and multithreading. Personal interests include rock climbing, cycling, motorcycles, and photography.
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1 Response to The Tale of Genji – choosing a translation

  1. Elliot Berlin says:

    I’ve read all three complete translations (Waley, Seidensticker, Tyler). I recommend the Tyler without hesitation.

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