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21 May 1981
The Tale of Genji 
by Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Edward Seidensticker.
Penguin, 1090 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 14 044390 8
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... translation by the American academic, Professor Seidensticker, conveys little of the flavour of Murasaki’s style, this text has none of the omissions and embroideries of the beautiful Arthur Waley version completed in the inter-war years. The various psychological dramas that evolve among these self-indulgent courtiers of Japan a thousand years ago can ...

Fan-de-Siècle

Brigid Brophy

6 October 1983
Murasaki ShikibuHer Diary and Poetic Memoirs, A Translation and Study 
by Richard Bowring.
Princeton, 290 pp., £21.70, August 1982, 0 691 06507 1
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Evelina 
by Fanny Burney.
Oxford, 421 pp., £2.50, April 1982, 0 19 281596 2
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The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney 
edited by Peter Hughes and Warren Derry.
Oxford, 624 pp., £37.50, September 1980, 0 19 812507 0
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Colette 
by Joanna Richardson.
Methuen, 276 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 413 48780 6
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Letters from Colette 
translated by Robert Phelps.
Virago, 214 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 86068 252 8
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... Siamese twins, I suppose, need not bother to apply. It is harder to divine why this translation of Murasaki’s Diary renders one passage by the words: ‘This is not to say that her women are always so genteel; if they forget themselves they can come out with the most indiscrete verses.’ Perhaps, in becoming conversant with Japanese to a degree he makes ...

Amazing Sushi

Jessica Olin: Nani Power

23 August 2001
Crawling at Night 
by Nani Power.
Heinemann, 234 pp., £9.99, July 2001, 0 434 00856 7
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... of rice and makes miso soup, his mind is filled with images from the diaries of the courtesan Murasaki Shikibu and her famous Tale of Genji. But while in his native language Ito can quote six hundred haiku, he is adrift in English, forced to speak in a sort of baby-talk. In Japan, he was a cultured man whose exact hand movements were ‘likened to ...

Shonagon is hot

Rivka Galchen: 'The Pillow Book'

2 January 2020
Unbinding ‘The Pillow Book’: The Many Lives of a Japanese Classic 
by Gergana Ivanova.
Columbia, 240 pp., £55, December 2018, 978 0 231 18798 5
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... must have had something to do with the way its language felt close to people’s actual lives. Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji, the other main work of Heian literature still read today, was also written in Japanese.Ivanova gives a detailed account of the way Shonagon was represented in the centuries after her death. In the Kamakura-Muromachi ...

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