Longest classic you’ve read

Posted April 18, 2015 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 6 Comments


Thoughts. The text 'rambling thoughts' underneath a burning lantern. For rambles, thoughts, and not-essays.

A while ago — actually, a pretty long time in blogging and internet terms — Lynn from Lynn’s Books put up a classic book-themed meme. Since I was looking for questions to natter about at the time (you’re still more than welcome to ask them!), I decided to just nab the whole meme and work through the questions point by point. (Except for the time-specific ones like “What are you reading at the moment?” because scheduling that in advance is silly.)

So! Without further ado.

Longest classic you’ve read

I was going to combine this with the topic of oldest classic when I realised they probably weren’t the same thing.

The longest classic I’ve read is, without a doubt, Genji monogatari, or The Tale of Genji. If memory serves (yes, I could research this for you, but where’s the fun in that?), it’s the earliest novel in history and one of the longest books in the world.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the longest book in the world. (Probably not if you consider certain modern fantasy series as ‘one book’. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, MASSIVELY LONG SERIES!) Honestly, my (translated!) copy was a brick doorstop and the print was tiny. It was something like 1500 pages in teeny tiny print that in a more convention size would probably have easily been double that.

And this was an unannotated version! Seriously, the book is long. And dense. I remembered to keep individual book stats on it. It took me two years to finish The Tale of Genji.  Well, almost, anyway. This is largely because I kept reading it in chunks with big breaks in between. My actual reading time is about 24 hours.

It still took me two years to get from the first to the last page. TWO YEARS!

Glad I did, though. Now I get to bandy the book about in memes like this and be all snobby and snooty at people for not having read it. XD Don’t worry! I won’t actually be snobby or snooty about it. Um. Not on purpose anyway. Please let me know if I am.

I liked the story, although I wish I hadn’t been stubborn and heeded the suggestions to read up on Heian court culture before reading the book, but it isn’t for everyone and if it sounds like it’s not your kind of thing then I would recommend avoiding it. Or getting an abridged version to try first if you really do want to give it a try.

It’s a pity that I read it in chunks the way I did. It means I remember even less than usual about the book. (I have an awesometastic memory for books. But only if I haven’t finished them yet and/or I haven’t read them a bajillion times.) Boo. So I can’t tell you much about it except that I’d consider the effort worth it. Can’t even tell you why, but my gut says “Good story” and I’d reread it in a different translation if the first read’s length hadn’t scared me off already.

How about you? What’s the longest classic you’ve ever read? (Or the longest book. I’m not picky. It totally doesn’t have to be a classic if you’d rather talk about something else.)


6 responses to “Longest classic you’ve read

    • I have yet to dare read either of those! Les Mis is somewhere on my TBR pile (distantly, once I finish a zillion other books), but I should add Gone with the Wind too. I know so little about it and sometimes it’s a little annoying because it’s such a well-known and oft-referenced story. Did you enjoy reading it?

  1. That’s great you tackled The Tale of Genji. It’s been on my radar for 3 or 4 years.

    I’ve read War & Peace, and also Moby Dick, and I read half of Don Quixote. And if you know your classics, then you know that what we think of as Don Quixote today was actually 2 separate novels written 20 years apart. So, you could say I read Book 1 of the Don Quixote duology. I’m guessing Moby Dick was the longest. It sure felt like the longest.

    • I hope you’ll get a chance to read it sometime! It’s beautiful. Tough to read at times, but I liked it. ^_^

      Ha! I didn’t know that! I’ve focused more on English literature and I’m only very slowly trying to fill in some of those international gaps. (Someday I really will have to drag myself into French classics. I’ve been putting of Les Mis forever. I’ve been inching my way through Till Eulenspiegel as a way to avoid it. >> Because clearly avoiding one literary behemoth because it’s huge by reading another chunkster makes perfect sense.)

      What did you think of Don Quixote? *nosy*

  2. My sweetheart has a copy of The Tale of Genji and I’ve been contemplating giving it a go… when Mt TBR is a bit smaller.

    The longest classic I’ve read The Complete Works of Shakespeare (if that counts as one), The Count of Monte Cristo & Les Miserables. I enjoyed the first two, but Les Mis was rather a drag.

    • Makes sense! It’s not a book to rush through, so I’d really recommend carving out time for it if you can.

      ^_^ It’s your answer, so as long as you count it… I didn’t know you’d read all of Shakespeare’s works! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed them. (I should really return to my slow wending through all of his works too. I should have read most of them at least once by now.) I’m sorry to hear Les Mis was a drag. I’ve got that on my TBR pile somewhere.

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