In the early eleventh century Murasaki Shikibu, a lady in the Heian court of Japan, wrote what many consider to be the world’s first novel, more than three centuries before Chaucer. The Heian era (794—1185) is recognized as one of the very greatest periods in Japanese literature, and The Tale of Genji is not only the unquestioned prose masterpiece of that period but also the most lively and absorbing account we have of the intricate, exquisite, highly ordered court culture that made such a masterpiece possible.
Genji is the favorite son of the emperor but also a man of dangerously passionate impulses. In his highly refined world, where every dalliance is an act of political consequence, his shifting alliances and secret love affairs create great turmoil and very nearly destroy him.
Edward Seidensticker’s translation of Lady Murasaki’s splendid romance has been honored throughout the English-speaking world for its fluency, scholarly depth, and deep literary tact and sensitivity.