How I Chose Among the Translations of 'The Tale of Genji'

Dennis Washburn, Comparative Literature professor's translation of the 11th-century Japanese novel "The Tale of the Genji" is called "the most readable and the best for understanding the book at a plot level" by the New York Times.

For readers in English, there are four principal translations of "The Tale of Genji," Murasaki Shikibu's 11th-century classic.

Washburn, a professor of comparative literature at Dartmouth, said that, as with other classical works like "The Odyssey," by Homer, he believed the more translations of "The Tale of Genji," the better. "The range of interpretations goes on and on," he said.

In doing his own translation, he also wanted to demystify Murasaki's work, he added.

"There is a romanticism about her style, and a view of it as elusive and difficult, in the sense that it's not explicit," he said. "And as I worked through it I came to a different conclusion. I think it's a more robust style and the language itself is not as ambiguous as people would think."

For the full article in The New York Times