Genji Monogatari by Murasaki Shikibu

Genji Monogatari or Tale of Genji is widely regarded as┬áthe world’s first novel (surprisingly enough, it is also the world’s first genre novel, belonging firmly to the same category of fiction as a Harlequin romance. I am not sure what that says about writers, literature, and popular taste, but there must be a moral in there somewhere). Written between 998 and 1021 by a Japanese noblewoman known to history as Murasaki Shikibu, it is the most influential work in Japanese literary history and is arguably one of the great pieces of world literature. One of the reasons that the book is so well-regarded is that it gives us a detailed view of life during this period. Even though Genji is a work of fiction, it affords us a better view of the day-to-day life of the Heian upper class than any other source. Continue reading