What It Is
With more and more websites being used to do group reads of amazing books, the folks at The Quarterly Conversation and Open Letters Monthly decided it was time to join forces to tackle one huge book. Thus The Summer of Genji was born.
Who’s Doing it
Editors and contributors to these online periodicals will be blogging their read of The Tale of Genji during the months of June, July, and August. We’ll be offering lots of commentary and candid opinions on a classic text that many consider the world’s first novel.
We hope that you’ll join us! We want to have as many people as possible reading along with us, offering their own thoughts in the comments. If you want to participate, have a look at the schedule and grab a copy of the edition your see on the sidebar to the right.
According to Wikipedia, The Tale of Genji “is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early eleventh century, around the peak of the Heian Period. It is sometimes called the world’s first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel still to be considered a classic.”
Virginia Woolf reviewed it favorably in Vogue in the 1920s, and many Europeans went on to claim it as a Japanese Proust or Austen. Jane Smiley claimed it helped her make sense of 9/11.
In The New York Review of Books, V.S. Pritchett wrote this about it:
When Arthur Waley’s translation of The Tale of Genji came out, volume by volume, in the late Twenties and early Thirties, the austere Sinologue and poet said that Lady Murasaki’s work was “unsurpassed by any long novel in the world.” If we murmured, “What about Don Quixote or War and Peace?” we were, all the same, enchanted by the classic of Heian Japan which was written in the tenth and eleventh centuries, and we talked about its “modern voice.” What we really meant was that the writing was astonishingly without affectation. Critics spoke of a Japanese Proust or Jane Austen, even of a less coarse Boccaccio. They pointed also to the seeming collusion of the doctrines of reincarnation or the superstition of demonic possession with the Freudian unconscious—and so on.
Who Built the Site
Many, many thanks to Dustin Marchant, who donated his time to putting this site together for this project. If you’re in need of a website, have a look at his web design firm, Banana Stand Design.