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The Tale of Genji Vol. 2

Refer to the Stature of "The Tales of Genji".
The Tale of Genji, as translated by Arthur Waley, is written with an almost miraculous naturalness, and what interests us is not the exoticism — the horrible word — but rather the human passions of the novel.
Such interest is just: Murasaki's work is what one would quite precisely call a psychological novel. I dare to recommend this book to those who read me. The English translation that has inspired this brief insufficient note is called The Tale of Genji. —by Jorge Luis Borges, The Total Library

The Tale of Genji is an important fictional work of Japanese literature, and numerous modern authors have cited it as inspiration. It is noted for its internal consistency, psychological depiction, and characterization. The novelist Yasunari Kawabata said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "The Tale of Genji in particular is the highest pinnacle of Japanese literature. Even down to our day there has not been a piece of fiction to compare with it".
 
(National Treasure / The Picture Scroll of The Tales of Genji / Yadorigi Vol. 2)

The Genji is also often referred to as "the first novel", though there is considerable debate over this — some of the debate involving whether Genji can even be considered a "novel". Some consider the psychological insight, complexity and unity of the work to qualify it for "novel" status while simultaneously disqualifying earlier works of prose fiction. Others see these arguments as subjective and unconvincing. Related claims, perhaps in an attempt to sidestep these debates, are that Genji is the "first psychological novel" or "historical novel", "the first novel still considered to be a classic" or other more qualified terms. Claiming that it is the world's first novel inevitably denies the claims of Daphnis and Chloe and Aethiopica in Greek, which Longus and Heliodorus of Emesa respectively wrote, both around the third century, and in Latin, Petronius's Satyricon in the first century and Apuleius's Golden Ass in the second, as well as Kādambari in Sanskrit which author Bānabhatta wrote in the seventh century. (The debate exists in Japanese as well, with comparison between the terms monogatari — "tale" — and shōsetsu — "novel".)

The novel and other works by Lady Murasaki are standard staple in the curricula of Japanese schools. The Bank of Japan issued the 2000 Yen banknote in her honor, featuring a scene from the novel based on the 12th century illustrated handscroll.

By TS on Dec 4, 2010
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