Cheating on Murasaki Shikibu: (In)fidelity, Politics, and the Quest for an Authoritative Post-war Genji Translation

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Translating and Interpreting book series (PTTI)


The oldest known Tale of Genji manuscripts are diverse and they were created centuries after the life of their alleged author, Murasaki Shikibu. No original text has been transmitted to us, yet new Genji translations are often marketed as higher in fidelity to Murasaki’s writing than predecessors. In this case study, Chozick examines how Genji retranslations have been carried out and sold as increasingly authoritative without a single, definitive source text. Such complexities are widely discounted in scholarship as well as in promotional materials for new Genji translations. As a corrective, this study draws attention to how translator agency and creativity intersect with textual and historical circumstances, while focusing on two influential Genji retranslations: the second Japanese Genji translation by Junichiro Tanizaki (Murasaki Shikibu: Junichirō shinyaku Genji monogatari (The Junichiro New Translation of The Tale of Genji), 12 vols. Chūōkōronsha, Tokyo, 1951–54) along with Edward Seidensticker’s unabridged English edition (Murasaki Shikibu: The Tale of Genji. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1976). In exploring the dynamic role of translators in the context of Genji, this study introduces the notion of the “hypervisible” translator.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  2. 2.Temple University, Japan CampusTokyoJapan

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