Columbia University Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature Edward Seidensticker died at his home in Tokyo on August 26th, 2007. The New York Times ran his obituary.
I studied at Columbia College (Class of 1979), and took a course in Japanese and Chinese literature in English translation. Our Japanese book was The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki, a story of lovers in early Imperial Japan. Our translation was by Arthur Waley, dating from the 1920’s and perhaps Victorian or Edwardian in its language. It was a bit stilted.
Professor Seidensticker came to our class with a copy of his new translation of Genji and read from it to us. It was modern, but quite beautiful. The book itself was beautifully bound with a purple cover stamped with chrysanthenums.
Years later, I stumbled across a copy in George Lenz’s used bookstore in Huntington, New York. It was selling for $160 or so, which I couldn’t afford. I’m sorry I didn’t get it years ago.
Professor Seidensticker made quite an impression on perhaps very few, but it has lasted til today. His work will live on for other readers.