Tale of Genji, Volume 1
Murasaki Shikibu

Book cover image

Narrated By: Brian Nishii

Duration: 1 day, 11 hours and 35 minutes

What to expect

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 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.

Genre

Classic fiction

Listen to a sample

“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.”

Washington Post

“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.”

New Yorker

“Washburn’s translation is a superb achievement. He fully captures the enthralling quality of the original.”