Tuesday, October 23, 2001

A classic I learned about by reading last Sunday's LA Times Book Review: The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, translated from the Japanese by Royall Tyler. The reviewer, Liza Dalby, summarizes the book this way:
"The Tale of Genji" is the great classic of Japanese literature. It was written 1,000 years ago by a lady of lower aristocratic birth who was put into service to a young empress--some think in order to entice the emperor to a salon where interesting stories could be found. This period of Japanese history, the Heian era (794-1185), was an age of aristocratic indulgence quite unlike the succeeding centuries of shoguns, samurai and geisha, who give us a more swashbuckling version of old Japan. In Heian courtly society, where aesthetic considerations were paramount, men as well as women freely wept into their wide sleeves, and a person's skill in rendering his or her emotions into a 31-syllable poem garnered the highest regard. This lost world has remained vivid for a millennium largely because of Murasaki Shikibu's writings about the adventures of her hero, Prince Genji, and his many loves.
I think the two-volume, 1,200 page work would fit nicely next to my three-volume set of Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust, waiting to be read sometime....

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