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The Tale of Genji: A Window on Japan's Magical Past
on 20 July 1999
The Tale of Genji was written around the turn of the last millenium, when the Heian court of Japan was at its zenith.
Murasaki Shikibu's work has been called the world's first psychological novel and is a masterpiece far ahead of its time.
It tells the tale of the life of a Prince, Genji and how his life reflects the fortunes of the Japan of 1000 years ago. Rich in metaphor, the book can be seen as reflective of Murasaki's view of a world in decline.
More than this, though, the book is a truly educational insight into life in the Heian court - a life unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Aesthetics, social values, sexual attitudes and religion are all illustrated in Murasaki's careful, understated style. It is also rich in poetry and provides a beautiful example of the importance of poetry to Japanese society; an appreciation that has continued to the present day.
It contrasts with the work of Murasaki's contemporary, Sei Shonagon's "The Pillow Book", in both style and attitude but together they describe a society, almost unimagineable in modern times.
Seidenstecker has undertaken the monumental challenge of translating the medieval Japanese so that an English-speaking audience might enjoy The Tale of Genji, which stands alongside the finest of the world's great works of literature.