In the early eleventh century Murasaki Shikibu, a lady in the Heian court of Japan, wrote what many consider to be the world’s first novel, more than three centuries before Chaucer. The Heian era (794—1185) is recognized as one of the very greatest periods in Japanese literature, and The Tale of Genji is not only the unquestioned prose masterpiece of that period but also the most lively and absorbing account we have of the intricate, exquisite, highly ordered court culture that made such a masterpiece possible.
Genji is the favorite son of the emperor but also a man of dangerously passionate impulses. In his highly refined world, where every dalliance is an act of political consequence, his shifting alliances and secret love affairs create great turmoil and very nearly destroy him.
Edward Seidensticker’s translation of Lady Murasaki’s splendid romance has been honored throughout the English-speaking world for its fluency, scholarly depth, and deep literary tact and sensitivity.
Murasaki Shikibu, a lady in the Heian court of Japan, is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji–written in the eleventh century and universally recognized as the greatest masterpiece of Japanese prose narrative and possibly the earliest… More about Murasaki Shikibu
“[The Tale of Genji is] not only the world’s first real novel, but one of its greatest.” –Donald Keene, Columbia University
“Edward Seidensticker’s translation has the ring of authority.” –New York Times Book Review
“A triumph of authenticity and readability.” –Washington Post Book World
Little is known with certainty about The Tale of Genji except that it has existed and been held in high esteem for almost a millennium. We will probably never known exactly when the author lived, and almost certainly we will never know exactly when she wrote her book and in what form it emerged from her pen – or, more properly, her brush. Most if not all of it was probably written in the early eleventh century AD by a court lady known as Murasaki Shikibu. A diary from the mid eleventh century establishes that it existed by then as a work of ‘more than fifty chapters’. The accepted count today is fifty-four. There is no holograph of even the smallest fragment. All recensions must be based on texts from several centuries later.