Saturday, 27 October 2012

Murasaki, Lady Shikibu "The Tale of Genji"

Murasaki, Lady Shikibu "The Tale of Genji" (Japanese: 源氏物語 Genji Monogatari) - early 11th century

A highly  interesting but tough read. How was life a millennium ago in a completely different part of this world.

This book is often considered the first novel ever written. That was partly the reason I was interested in it.

And I didn't regret reading it. The story of Genji is about a young prince in Japan and his life at court. Very different from any life nowadays, this first hand narrative concentrates on the relationship between Genji and the many female members at court, from older ladies to young girls.

Is there a better way to find out how people used to live than reading about them in a book? This is the best way of time travel.

From the back cover:

"Completed in the early 11th century, The Tale of Genji is considered the supreme masterpiece of Japanese prose literature, and one of the world's earliest novels. A work of great length, it comprises six parts, the first part of which (also called The Tale of Genji) is reprinted here. The exact origins of this remarkable saga of the nobility of Heian Japan remain somewhat obscured by time, although its author, Lady Shikibu Murasaki, presumably derived many of her insights into court life from her years of service with the royal family.

The novel centers on the life and loves of the prince known as 'the shining Genji.' Far more than an exotic romance, however, the tale presents finely drawn characters in realistic situations, set against a richly embroidered tapestry of court life, Moreover, a wistful sense of nostalgia pervades the accounts of courtly intrigues and rivalries, resulting in an exquisitely detailed portrayal of a decaying aristocracy.

Vibrant in its poetry and wordplay, subtle in its social and psycho logical observations, this work ranks in stature and significance with such Western classics as Cervantes'
Don Quixote and Proust's Remembrance of Things Past . This inexpensive edition, featuring Arthur Waley's splendid translation of the first of the six-part series, offers readers a memorable taste of one of the world's first and greatest novels."

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