Sunday, March 24, 2013

My first adventure with The Tale of Genji & bloom pic-report

SJG • 3/20/13 - Pieris Japonica at Tea House Garden
by aleks

P.S. 3/30/13 - Mchele noticed that SAM FILMS is going to play The Tale of Genji 
June 13, 7–9:30 pm 
at Stimson Auditorium:
Sam -Second Thursday Japanese Films
Day 2 of the training for the new SJG guides is now concluded, and The Tale of Genji was brought up in PPP on gardens in Japan, which reminded me that I wanted to follow the link that Keiko provided in her post from Feb. 9, when she wrote about a current exhibition of Japanese Art at SAAM,  mentioning that it includes The Tale of Genji.

(Note to self: the exhibition should be recommended to all new guides on the training Day 4, when Nat, Keiko and I reign, together with general list of haiku reading, which was cut off from this year's training).

Before going to Keiko's link,  I decided to google for a summary first, to somehow familiarize myself with what I was about to undertake.  From wiki entry I found out that Genji Monigatari,  '11th century psychological novel' by Murasaki Shikibu is set in an archaic court language that was already unreadable a century after it was written - that didn't frazzle me because I would be reading it in translation, and hopefully NOT into 11 century English - so far so good.

SJG • 3/18/13 - Forsythia is  almost over
Then I looked at the plot summary, and read that  instead of a traditional plot, events happen and characters evolve simply by growing older: Genji is born, looses his mother at the age of 3, his emperor father cannot forget her, meets Lady Fujitsubo, who reminds him of Genji's mother, marries her, and you would think everybody lived happily ever after, but we are barely at the beginning of the tale,  which  has 54 chapters.

Following the plot summary we learn that Lady Fujitsubo proves to be an excellent stepmother, but when Genji grows up things  are getting a bit complicated as they fell in love with each other... In his frustration over  this forbidden love for the Lady Fujitsubo, Genji engages in a series of unfulfilling love affairs with other women, all looking like his stepmother - Freud would be ecstatic :)

SJG • 3/20/13 - Many exquisite
camellias are blooming; above
camellia  daikagura
Did I mention there is a wife of Genji, Aoi?  Genji and Aoi quarrel and reconcile and have a son, after which event Aoi  leaves the stage by dying.  Not sure what Lady Fujitsubo is doing throughout all of this (I'm still reading summaries, not the real deal, mind you), but at some point she and Genji have a son, too, but pass him as his father's - the emperor; both of Genji's sons would later become emperors...

By now the plot was looking Shakespearian and  slightly dizzying:  very rich and busy with characters, intrigues and sub-intrigues, with meandering scenarios of several generations of people involved in the emperor's court...  Then I saw this wiki paragraph:

One complication for readers and translators of the Genji is that almost none of the characters in the original text are given explicit names. The characters are instead referred to by their function or role (e.g. Minister of the Left), an honorific (e.g. His Excellency), or their relation to other characters (e.g. Heir Apparent), which changes as the novel progresses. This lack of names stems from Heian-era court manners that would have made it unacceptably familiar and blunt to freely mention a person's given name. Modern readers and translators have used various nicknames to keep track of the many characters.

SJG • 3/20/13 - Who knew skimmia
japonica opens to bloom  in March?
Nice, Shakespeare on steroids! Plus, the characters are supposed to address each other with the ancient Japanese poems here and there - so there will be a code of poetic allusions one has to crack through...

By now I was burning to see the real thing, instead of just reading about it, and jump into this bygone era of the Japanese culture, especially curious of the author's pondering over the inherent contradictions in Genij's character, due to the circumstances of his birth and upbringing.

You can go to Oxford Text Archive  - a link that Keiko provided, where in exchange for your email and agreeing to terms you will be able to download 2.43 megabytes of Genji Monigatari text onto your computer. (Seidensticker translation)

Or, you can read it straight  on-line at University of Adelaide  which makes it available under a Creative Commons License, no email registration needed.  (Seidensticker translation)

Unesco Global Heritage Pavilion also has the text online  (+ woodcuts of Harumasa Yamamoto) with this note: At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the Internet version created for the UNESCO website is reaching out to each one of us. Please enjoy it to your heart's content. (Seidensticker translation)

SJG • 3/20/13 - And of course, many
rhododendrons are out already; here
is the unnamed hybrid by WPA bridge
Hello, Plant Committee and all gardeners! Go to  Plants in Genji Monogatari (spring, autumn, plants to be seen through the year,  perennial plants, trees)...

If you have Attention Deficit Disorder and absolutely cannot sit through 54 chapters and over 1000 pages, go to the Tale of Genji summary online version with pictures, and enjoy it as briefly as you can endure, or read this excellent short summary by Royall Tyler at Penguin Club.

If you like to look at screens and scrolls from The Tale of Genji go to Hood Museum of Art  Dartmouth College at Hanover, New Hampshire.

For a replica of Genji's residence and dolls wearing Heian-era clothing go to the Costume Museum in Kyoto -   this is where you can have your photo taken wearing courtly Heian attire.

Film?  Yes, there is Tale of Genji anime - 1987 Tale of Genji animated movie with English subtitles on YouTube. First installment below, and go to the link above for the rest.

And of curse, there is a book version of the The Tale of Genji at your favorite bookseller - for you, bookworms, there are five major translations into English available, and comparing them should keep you busy for several winters - some are said to be more poetic, while other more academic, depending on the translator's bias.

Do I sound  slightly Genji-crazy? Because I think I am...  Writing this post took me several days as I was getting distracted stopping at all the links above, and a few more...

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