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What is "The Tale of Genji," the full-length novel, the classic of the classics?
The Tale of Genji" is said to be the world's oldest full-length novel. What did Murasaki Shikibu, the author of The Tale of Genji, want to depict by making Genji the main character? We'll also give you an overview of The Tale of Genji, which is not just a love story about the aristocrats of the Heian period, but also an introduction to the story.
The Tale of Genji, a full-length novel dating from around 1008 during the mid-Heian period, has been translated into more than 20 languages and is highly regarded worldwide.
The Tale of Genji" is the only work of narrative author Murasaki Shikibu, a female poet and writer, who left us her only story.
The Tale of Genji" depicts a period of about 70 years and consists of 54 chapters (volumes), including the title-only "Unogakushi", with about one million characters. (There are some theories about the number of volumes.)
There are about 500 characters and 795 waka poems that match their sentiments, and there is a theory that the entire book may not have been written by Murasaki Shikibu.
There are various theories about this too, but the general idea is that it is composed in three parts.
Part 1: From "Kiri-tsubo" to "Fuouraha". It depicts the birth and glory of Hikaru Genji, the main character.
Part 2: From "Wakana" to "Phantom". It depicts the torment and aging of Hikarugenji.
Kumogakure": Title only, no text. It suggests Genji's death.
Part 3: "Smelling Hyobu-sensei" to "Yume Ukihashi". It describes the posthumous life of Hikarugenji.
The last ten chapters of the third part are set in Uji and are also called "Uji Ten Chapters". Each of the chapters is a complete story, and as a collection of chapters, they form a long story.
It focuses on a love story between Hikaru Genji and a woman, the hardships faced by women in aristocratic society as seen by Murasaki Shikibu, and the politics of the regency in the Fujiwara period.
This story, which is a legacy of the noble culture of the Heian period, has been translated into a number of modern languages. From the Meiji to Taisho periods, Yosano Akiko and Tanizaki Jun'ichirō were among the most famous literary giants to have translated the stories.
In addition to the modern translations, there are more novels and comics rewritten in a modern style that are easy to pick up.
Synopsis of The Tale of Genji
The first part is the love story of the main character, Hikaru Genji. Hikaru Genji, the son of the Kiritsubo Emperor, falls in love with Fujitsubo, the second wife of his father, who resembles his mother, who died when he was young.
A child is born to Genji and Fujitsubo, who is raised as the son of Emperor Kiritsubo. He also married the older Aoi no Uejo and fell in love with Utsusemi, Yugao, and Rokujo-no-Miyasho, making it a true story of love's pilgrimage.
Because of his affair with Oboro Tsukiyo, the daughter of the Minister of Justice, who was his political rival, Genji was forced to leave Kyoto and live in Suma, where he met Akashi no Kimi.
However, after the death of the Minister of Righteousness, he returned to the capital and regained his momentum when his child with Fujitsubo became Emperor Reisen, and lived a prosperous life in Rokujoin.
The second part of the story takes a turn for the worse, and is a world of torment for the Genji. When Suzakuin left his daughter Sannomiya to the Minamoto clan, Murasaki no Ue, who had been Genji's true wife, fell ill.
Furthermore, the young noblewoman fell in love with the young Kashiwagi and gave birth to a child, and the Genji finds out about this and is tormented by regret for his old age and the mistakes of the past. When his beloved Murasaki no Ue, who was ill, dies, he finally decides to ordain.
The third part of the story takes place after Genji's death, and the last ten chapters take place in Uji, where the grandchildren of the Genji family live. Here, the relationship between Genji's grandchildren and the women who surround them, such as the sisters of Daimon-chukun, and their struggles, unfold again just like Hikarugenji.
The Tale of Genji is characterized by the many characters that appear in this long story. Most of the books have a relationship diagram, so it is easy to understand the story while reading it.
The Tale of Genji" is a long story. It is said that not many people can read the entire book, even in modern translations, but the books introduced here are mainly introductory texts with an outline and explanations. After reading these, we hope you will be able to savor them in a modern translation or in the original text.