The Tale of Genji is considered to be the world's first novel. It was written in around A.D. 1010 by a Japanese noblewoman named Murasaki Shikibu. The hero of this 54-chapter novel, regarded as a masterpiece of Japan's cultural tradition, is a handsome aristocrat named Hikaru Genji. The novel describes the life of Genji and his many romances against the backdrop of Japan's court society.
At its most basic, The Tale of Genji is an absorbing introduction to the culture of the aristocracy in early Heian Japan—its forms of entertainment, its manner of dress, its daily life, and its moral code. The era is exquisitely re-created through the story of Genji, the handsome, sensitive, gifted courtier, an excellent lover and a worthy friend. Most of the story concerns the loves of Genji, and each of the women in his life is vividly delineated. The work shows supreme sensitivity to human emotions and the beauties of nature, but as it proceeds its darkening tone reflects the Buddhist conviction of this world’s transience.
Arthur Waley was the first to translate The Tale of Genji into English (6 vol., 1925–33). Waley’s translation is beautiful and inspiring but also very free. Edward Seidensticker’s translation (1976) is true to the original in both content and tone, but its notes and reader aids are sparse, in contrast to the translation published by Royall Tyler in 2001.
Credit : Britannica
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