The Tale of Murasaki

The Tale of Genji is a classic in Japanese literature.  This novel is a fictional diary of its author, Fujihara (commonly known as Murasaki Shikibu, after a well loved character in her fiction and her father’s official title).

This historical ficiton is well researched, offering realistic glimpses into the life of a noble woman in 11th century Japan.  It’s interesting though hard to imagine how blackened teeth is a symbol of beauty then, and how the Chinese customs differs from the Japanese ones.   The line about the Regent’s complain that his wife bore him nothing but sons indeed sounds unreal to many cultures, then and now.

The story imagines how Fuji’s life experience enriches her writing – a discussion she overheard of his brother’s and his friends about women inspires Genji’s version, for example.  Unfortunately, towards the end, the story seems to drag on slightly too long to a fizzled ending, when details such as the color combination of the clothes is no more novel but tedious.  (But then as a lady in waiting at the Imperial Palace, life is not exactly exciting.)

I also love the small novella of Ukifune, the supposed lost final chapter to the Tale of Genji.

Some pictures from Waki Yamato’s manga version of Tale of Genji:

Published in: on March 20, 2007 at 3:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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