Thursday, March 13, 2008

Genji Days by Edward Seidensticker.

I had a friend once who was enamored with 'The Tale of Genji' a long narrative, some say the worlds first novel, written by a woman in Japan in the 11th century. I was encouraged to read it and it is on my list of "Books I will try to read before I die." Genji Days was a collection of excerpts from a diary kept by Edward Seidensticker while he was working on the first complete and modern translation in to English of the work. This was a job he first started in 1965 and completed in 1974. The diary entries are from 1970-1974 while he was teaching at Ann Arbor. Back in the 80's I managed to borrow a copy of the book to loan to my friend. It was an autographed edition that had been given to someone I met who had once worked with Seidensticker with the occupation forces in Japan after WWII. I never got a chance to read it myself but I was told it was an interesting and rather shocking account at times more revealing about the personal life of Edward Seidensticker then the book he was working on. I managed to find a copy on e-bay and just finished it. It is an entertaining account of the world of campus politics in the 1970's, his annual visits to Japan, his dreams and his struggle to adapt the work of an 11th century Japanese woman to a 20th century English audience a task that some thought impossible if not futile.

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