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    Big book bucket list

    Three books I'm determined to finish before the dude in the hoodie with the big razor shows up. I've started them all but it's early days yet. In order of purchase they are:

    Don Quixote.

    The Tale of Genji

    The Arabian Nights.


    As you can see they're all old, Don Quixote: early-17th century Spain: Genji: early-11th century Japan: Arabian Nights: possibly sometime in the early middle ages(?) They have several other characteristics in common. They're all fat, between 800-1000pp. None were written in English, so translation is very much part of the reading experience. Finally all are episodic, with short(ish) chapters making it easy to put one down for awhile to read something else.

    Don Quixote is the John Rutherford translation which, I think, is the one Imp recommended here a while back. It is extremely contemporary and accessible, also very funny in a Pythonish sense. I completely understand why Terry Gilliam wanted to film it. The relationship between the Knight and Sancho Panza also evokes, to me, Blackadder and Baldrick. Whether this is down to Rutherford's Englishness or a straightforward representation of Cervantes intent I can't yet say.

    Translation is also an issue with the Tale of Genji. Arthur Waley's is by far the most famous, and though readable, it's not immediately engaging and comes across as a bit flat. I can't help but wonder whether a middle-class 19th century English Bloomsberry-ite, who'd never visited East Asia, can really get inside the soul of a lady of the Heian period imperial court. Or whether anyone can at this distance. I will persist, but might take a look at other translations.

    Of the three books The Arabian Nights is the one I find most hard to stop reading. It's got so much going for it. Loads of sex and violence. Fantastic plots. Stories within stories within stories. Gender politics. Jaw dropping Jinn's, and preposterous plot devices. It's one of those books you think you know, because we've heard or seen some of the stories since we were kids. But, honestly they're nothing like Sir Richard Burton's versions. It's uncanny but you can tell immediately that he profoundly understands what he's doing, in a way that I doubt Waley does. The magic is there from the first sentence. Glorious stuff.

    #2
    I am virtually certain that I have noted on here before that I have started Genji at least four times over the last 40 years without making it very far.

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      #3
      Yes fairly recently. After I mentioned I obtained my copy, clearly never opened, from the local book bin.

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        #4
        There was a fascinating exhibition at the Met on its artistic legacy about three years ago that I visited several times (as well as attending lectures).

        I've read most of the catalogue for that.

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          #5
          Were any opinions expressed on the different translations? I might look at Edward Seidensticker's, or Royall Tyler's to see if they resonate more with me.

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            #6
            I found the first penguin volume of the Arabian Nights quite hard going. Maybe just a little slow, but probably a more accurate translation than most.

            I got the first volume of a modern translation of the Journey to the West. I have not yet started it.

            I'd also like to read Dream of the Red Chamber and Romance of the Three Kingdoms (although I read a discussion that there was no good, unabridged English version of the three kingdoms (the penguin abridgement is meant to be pretty good though).

            I have The Tale of the Heiki to read on my shelf as well.

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              #7
              Unfortunately not, the focus was very much on the visual, though the last room was devoted to a recent Manga version, which is highly regarded.

              I had forgotten that Seidensticker had done one. He wrote two valuable histories of Tokyo.

              This Ian Buruma New Yorker piece on various translations may be of interest

              https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2...t-books-buruma

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                #8
                My experience with Don Quixote (no idea whose translation, but it was dirt cheap which suggests not a great one) was that I kinda understood that it was amusing, but I never got caught up in it. about 20% of the way in, after several months of battle, I just got worn down and gave up.

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                  #9
                  Originally posted by ursus arctos View Post
                  Unfortunately not, the focus was very much on the visual, though the last room was devoted to a recent Manga version, which is highly regarded.

                  I had forgotten that Seidensticker had done one. He wrote two valuable histories of Tokyo.

                  This Ian Buruma New Yorker piece on various translations may be of interest

                  https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2...t-books-buruma
                  That's helpful. He tends to favour Tyler's translation, but admits that it's impossible to come up with anything definitive these days, even in Japanese.

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                    #10
                    I read a cut down version of Don Quixote at my grandparents' about fifty years ago. Don't remember much about it.

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