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Thursday, February 28, 2008

World's First Novel, Novelist

lady murasaki
Murasaki Shikibu

Love, intrigue, lust and adventure are all ingredients of a bestselling novel. One such book with these elements thrilled readers almost one thousand years ago. The Tale of Genji, is considered by many to be the first novel in the world. It was written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu.

* I remember borrowing this book from the library some years ago. Didn't finish it (but I'd like to add it to my collection -- next purchase...).

Lady Murasaki's real name is unknown. Murasaki Shikibu roughly translates to "Lavender Secretary". The main source of knowledge about her life is the diary she kept between 1007 and 1010.

The novel is generally regarded as the greatest work of Japanese literature.

The Tale of Genji captures the image of a unique society of refined aristocrats, who were skilled in poetry, music, calligraphy, and courtship. Much of it is concerned with the loves of Hikaru Genji (the shining prince) and the different women in his life. Though the novel does not contain scenes of dramatic action, it is written with an exquisite sensitivity to human emotions. Genji is also very concerned with cultivating a beautiful and elegant lifestyle, a principle called miyabi.

The Tale of Genji continues to have cultural prominence in Japan. Images of its characters grace everything from tee-shirts to stationary, and manga and anime versions of the famous love story have been produced. It is required reading in all Japanese high schools.

Most recently, a new 2000 yen note was produced. One side features an image of Murasaki Shikibu.

References: World's First Novelist, Genji.

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