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Chapter 2 Notes

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Continuation of commentary. I sort of skimmed this chapter, since it's largely the same as in Waley's translation.

Chapter One
Chapter Two, The Broom Tree

Still a guards captain, Genji...

This is Muraskai's first time mentioning that Genji is a guards captain. It could be that a previous mention has been lost, or that this chapter was written after other, later chapters that do mention it. But my personal favorite theory is that Murasaki is at court discussing the characters in The Tale of Genji -- what they're like and what happens to them, their love lives, etc -- with her friends, and afterward she retires to her room to write the next chapter. The next day, she brings the chapter with her, recites from it, adds in her friends' suggestions (when she agrees with them), and then says casually, "I was thinking about what Genji's job should be. Shouldn't I make him a captain of the guard? Captains are so dashing." Her friends agree that there could be no more handsome or romantic profession, and one mentions that the position is eminently suited to a prince of royal blood! That settles it; Genji is made a captain of the guard.

Since everyone in her audience already knows that Genji is a captain of the guard, Murasaki forgets or doesn't feel the need to formally introduce him as such in her narrative. I like this theory because it describes a close-community-entertainment-oriented mode of writing (I write fanfic XD).

***

This is the chapter in which Genji and his friends describe their ideal woman. This discussion sets up MANY of Genji's later romantic escapades and is therefore very important; for the most part, it's the same here as in Waley's version.

Although it's a group of guys talking about girls, I remember thinking when I read Waley's translation that the conversation isn't very manly. Genji's friends are so sentimental in their descriptions! And when they aren't being sentimental, they're being relentlessly practical, no abstract romantic headstrong idealism to speak of. This is a cultural difference, of course: later on there are men weeping openly, and that does not make them any less manly either.

Desireable qualities:
•of COURSE youth and beauty. this is the minimum; what we're talking about here are much finer distinctions.
•many accomplishments, such as being able to paint well or play the koto well. poetry and conversation are especially important. some women try to hide the things they're bad at with the things they do well; but ideally, they should do everything well.
•wealth, a moderately good family and a cultivated disposition. the noveau-riche or recently impoverished are excluded, not because of their financial situations but because these situations lead to deficiencies in character that cannot be hidden, no matter how hard one might try.
•woman of slightly lower than the highest ranks are better because their refinement is less expected.
•wives should be train-able, but should not require SO much training that they only know how to please their husbands and can't do anything else. still, a wife should be sensitive to her husband's moods, and should always try to please him.
•women should not be overly dramatic or prone to bouts of romantic depression. running away to the mountains is absolutely not a turn on.
•the ability to forgive absolutely is woman's most important attribute. on the other hand a walking doormat is no good either. women should know when to gently chide and when to back off.
•women who are learned, but not overly booksmart, are preferable. mastery is of the Chinese classics is especially undesireable, as such learning is unfeminine. (Waley notes -- Seidensticker does not -- that this description might be a dig at Sei Shonogan XD)
•the forgotten woman in the run-down house who is unexpectedly delightful: who could resist her?

Genji thinks that Fujitsubo perfectly fulfills all requirements.

***

I was especially amused by this line:
The man seeks to please, and the result is that the woman is presently looking elsewhere.

XD once the fruit has been tasted...

***

Genji's best friend is To no Chujo, Aoi's borhter (Genji's brother-in-law) who is something of a rake. The chapter actually starts with To no Chujo reading through Genji's less important love lettters (?!), looking for juicy gossip and trying to guess who the authors are. I like To no Chujo, he's completely unrestrained. Genji, in constrast, is a wet blanket ahaha.

IMPORTANT THINGS THAT COME UP LATER:
1. the last item on that list of desireable qualities
2. To no Chujo's inadvertantly abandonned love. She never told him how much his absenses pained her, and before he knew it she had disappeared, overcome with sorrow at his neglect. She and To no Chujo have a son, who has also disappeared. To no Chujo, of course, blames her for not telling him her feelings.

***

In the second half of this chapter Genji goes back to Aoi's place. He doesn't like spending time with Aoi because she is too refined and self-possesed; he has trouble talking to her and can never tell what she's thinking. They walk, it's a warm day, he loosens his robes, Aoi's maids sigh at how handsome he is.

Traveling taboos drive Genji to spend the night at the house of a provincial governor (the governor of Kii/Iyo). He overhears gossip of which he is the object, but the servants repeating it keep misquoting poetry, which reminds Genji that his host's household is of a much lower rank than his own.

Later that night, Genji's curiosity is aroused by the governor's young stepmother. She has a husky voice and he, evesdropping again, he is piqued when she shows no interest in his description. Therefore, he walks into her room and carries her off. There's a really bad pun here that reminds me of a bad pick-up line.

They spend the night in his room -- I can't tell whether he sleeps with her or not, but since the servants all know she's there I guess it doesn't matter. Neither the lady nor her servants can stop him, his rank is too high. The lady has no objections to Genji -- except that he is too good for her -- but the inappropriateness of the situation does not escape her, and she spends the entire night crying.

Genji conscripts her younger brother, who is twelve or thirteen, into his service ("you'll be my son"). He wins the boy over completely and soon has him delievering clandestine messages to his sister, all of which she answers formally. After this has gone on for a while, he manages to be "forced" by another traveling tabboo to spend the night. The sister, however, is not receptive, and this time she is sleeping in a room with many other woman. Genji, sulking, resolves to give her up, and sleeps with her younger brother instead.

I probably do not have to mention that the last part with the younger brother is completely absent from Waley's translation. I can't remember what Waley said about him, but it definitely wasn't that he was charming, or graceful, or looked like his sister (whom Genji still has not seen clearly), or that Genji has decided he prefers his company to hers since she is so "chilly."

***

Last chapter Genji was charming and beautiful; this chapter he is charming, beautiful, used to getting his own way, and prone to bouts of stubborn resentment when he doesn't. I'm pretty sure his childish willfulness is also meant to be endearing.

Next chapter I'll stop summarizing THIS TIME I MEAN IT.

Chapter Three
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On March 9th, 2006 02:00 am (UTC), rachelmanija commented:
To no Chujo is totally one of my favorite characters.
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On March 9th, 2006 02:17 am (UTC), sub_divided replied:
so it's chujo not chouji
I...I got his title wrong! Ahh! It's even the same as Genji's a captain of the guards!

Genji is always discretely inappropriate, so that he can be BOTH a major player AND a completely proper young man. He essentially gets to have it both ways. Whereas To no Chujo, who to be fair does not have quite so many people watching his every move, is much more open about his womanizing. It's refreshing, not having to deal with the author's Genji double-standard.
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On March 10th, 2006 01:41 am (UTC), kate_nepveu commented:
1. the last item on that list of desireable qualities

Good catch--I'd forgotten that.

I'm pretty sure his childish willfulness is also meant to be endearing.

*rolls eyes*
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On March 10th, 2006 03:25 am (UTC), sub_divided replied:
I'd hate it more except that would be hypocritical of me, since I can think of several characters -- manga, television, usually not in books though -- whose childishness willfulness I do find endearing. It helps when they're young and pretty and I don't have to spend any time inside their heads.

It also helps when this aspect of their personalities is treated as what it is, an interesting character flaw, rather than as attractive quality. Even though it is attractive, occasionally. What I'm trying to say is that Genji shouldn't get off so easy all the time.
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On March 17th, 2006 09:01 pm (UTC), bluedelirium commented:
I'm actually reading the Waley translation at the moment, and so I'll say- he doesn't exactly say that Genji sleeps with the kid, but... well.... "...he laid the boy beside him on his bed... and Genji, we must record, found him no bad substitute for his ungracious sister." (?!) And then there's stuff about how the boy is so pretty and delicate and small....
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On March 17th, 2006 09:25 pm (UTC), sub_divided replied:
Woah, really? I'd totally forgotten that. And it's the sort of thing I'd have expected to notice/remember, too.
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On March 17th, 2006 09:32 pm (UTC), bluedelirium replied:
I know, it's weird- I was like, wait, when was this translation done? But it's pretty obvious if you're looking for it at all.
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On March 17th, 2006 09:46 pm (UTC), sub_divided replied:
So far the biggest ways that Waley's translation has been different from Seidensticker's (and, presumably, from the original) are 1) he doesn't translate sentence-by-sentence and 2) he names characters whose names aren't given in the original (for instance, Aoi).

What I think is really interesting about his translation -- aside from all the details being the same, even the implied gay sex in a 1925 translation -- is that he doesn't always translate the chapter titles. Chapter five in Waley is "Murasaki", in Seidensticker it's "lavender," which is what the word murasaki means -- but there's obviously a double-meaning in the original that neither translation can capture.

The other interesting thing is how involved the sentences get, but you already know my feelings on that XD. Points to you for slogging through them.
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On March 17th, 2006 09:49 pm (UTC), bluedelirium replied:
Heh, I stil have very fresh memories of Thomas Hardy from senior year- Waley is nothing. I kind of like the ornate style, in a masochistic sort of way.
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On March 17th, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC), sub_divided replied:
DIE THOMAS HARDY DIE.

(aha, it's a conditioned response. though what bothered me about Hardy wasn't the prose style, it was the unlikeable characters and everything being so depressing all the time.)
On March 20th, 2006 06:05 pm (UTC), hikarugenji replied:
I have my doubts that Murasaki's intent was to imply gay sex in this passage -- all the original text says is that because the young boy was so impressed with Genji's youthful charm (the term "medetashi" is not decidedly romantic or sexual in nature), Genji found the young boy more "aware" than his chilly older sister. The term "aware" is famously vague but this term, also, does not have an exclusively (or even primarily) sexual meaning.
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On March 20th, 2006 09:22 pm (UTC), sub_divided replied:
Oooh, thanks for clarifying. The way you have sounds much more like Genji enjoys being admired, and is glad to find someone who is as impressed by him as he is by himself admires him.

Which is sort of funny, since the sister is not impervious to his charms at all. She just hides it better.

Looking forward to your comments!
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