The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari) is a classic of Japanese and world literature and a stunningly beautiful love story. Written by Murasaki Shikibu, it is unquestionably one of the world's greatest literary masterpieces and perhaps the finest achievement of classic Japanese prose narrative, unforgettable for its rich poetry, imagery, and imaginative wordplay.
Prince Genji, the “Shining Prince” - the hero of this shimmering chronicle of court life, is a complex personality and peerless lover. Genji is the son of an emperor. His tempestuous nature, family circumstances, love affairs, alliances, and shifting political fortunes form the core of this magnificent epic.
Consisting of 54 chapters, The Tale of Genji offers an unparalleled glimpse into the grandeur of the Heian era of Japan, which extended from 794 AD to 1191. During this era of peace and economic stability, an aristocracy controlled by the Fujiwara family dominated Japan, and the nation's capital was located at Kyoto. This period was a classic age of art and literature. Japan's culture was no longer one largely borrowed from China but had become distinctively Japanese. The ruling classes lived lives of luxury and prosperity, pursuing the fine arts and music. A man was measured as much by the quality of his poetry as by the strength of his sword.
Widely held to be the first novel ever written, The Tale of Genji thereby occupies a singular role in the world's literary canon.
MURASAKI SHIKIBU (circa 978-1014) was a member of Japan's Fujiwara clan, which ruled behind the scenes during the Heian Period by providing the brides and courtesans of all the emperors. Lady Murasaki's rare literary talent, particularly her skill as a poet, secured her a place in the court of Empress Akiko. "The Shining Prince" Genji's favorite consort in the 11th century, The Tale of Genji ranks among the world's greatest works of romantic prose narrative. After the death of her husband, she cloistered herself to study Buddhism, raise her daughter, and write the world's first novel: Genji Monogatari, the legend of the shining Prince Genji. It is almost universally acknowledged that this book is the finest flower of Japanese literature, past or present.