is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early eleventh century, around the peak of the Heian Period. It is sometimes called the world's first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel, or the first novel to still be considered a classic, though this issue is a matter of debate (see Stature below.)
The first partial translation of Genji Monogatari into English was by Suematsu Kenchō. A free translation of all but one chapter was produced by Arthur Waley. Edward Seidensticker made the first complete translation into English, using a more literal method than Waley. The most recent English translation, by Royall Tyler (2001), also tries to be faithful to the original text. Diet member Marutei Tsurunen has also made a translation in Finnish.
One complication for readers and translators of the Genji is that almost none of the characters in the original text is given an explicit name. The characters are instead referred to by their function or role (e.g. Minister of the Left), an honorific (e.g. His Excellency), or their relation to other characters (e.g. Heir Apparent), which may all change as the novel progresses. This lack of names stems from Heian-era court manners that would have made it unacceptably familiar and blunt to freely mention a character's name. Modern readers and translators have, to a greater or lesser extent, used various nicknames to keep track of the many characters. See Characters for a listing.
[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.|30px|30px|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."
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", "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 honour, featuring a scene from the novel based on the 12th century illustrated handscroll.
The debate over how much of the Genji was actually written by Murasaki Shikibu has gone on for centuries and is unlikely to ever be settled unless some major archival discovery is made. It is generally accepted that the tale was finished in its present form by 1021, when the author of the Sarashina Nikki wrote a famous diary entry about her joy at acquiring a complete copy of the tale. She writes that there are over fifty chapters and mentions a character introduced near the end of the work, so if other authors besides Murasaki Shikibu did work on the tale, the work was done very near to the time of her writing.
Yosano Akiko, the first author to make a modern translation of the Genji, believed that Murasaki Shikibu had only written Chapters One to Thirty-three, and that Chapters Thirty-five to Fifty-four were written by her daughter Daini no Sanmi. Other scholars have doubted the authorship of Chapters Forty-two to Forty-four (particularly Forty-four, which contains rare examples of continuity mistakes).
According to Royall Tyler's introduction to his English translation of the work, recent computer analysis has turned up "statistically significant" discrepancies of style between chapters 45–54 and the rest, and also among the early chapters. But this discrepancy can also be explained by a change in attitude of the author as she grew older, and the earlier chapters are often thought to have been edited into their present form some time after they were initially written.
One of the frequent arguments made against the multiple authorship idea is that the Genji is a work of such genius that someone of equal or greater genius taking over after Murasaki is implausible.
The work recounts the life of a son of a Japanese emperor, known to readers as Hikaru Genji, or "Shining Genji". Neither appellation is his actual name: is simply another way to read the Chinese characters for the real-life , to which Genji was made to belong. For political reasons, Genji is relegated to commoner status (by being given the surname Minamoto) and begins a career as an imperial officer. The tale concentrates on Genji's romantic life and describes the customs of the aristocratic society of the time. Much is made of Genji's good looks.
Genji was the second son of a certain ancient emperor and a low-ranking concubine (known to the readers as Lady Kiritsubo). His mother dies when Genji is three years old, and the Emperor cannot forget her. The Emperor then hears of a woman ("Lady Fujitsubo"), formerly a princess of the preceding emperor, who resembles his deceased concubine, and later she becomes one of his wives. Genji loves her first as a stepmother, but later as a woman. They fall in love with each other, but it is forbidden. Genji is frustrated because of his forbidden love to the Lady Fujitsubo and is on bad terms with his wife (Aoi no Ue). He also engages in a series of unfulfilling love affairs with other women. In most cases, his advances are rebuffed, his lover dies suddenly during the affair, or he finds his lover to be dull in each instance. In one case, he sees a beautiful young woman through an open window, enters her room without permission, and forces her to have sex with him. Recognizing him as a man of unchallengeable power, she makes no resistance, saying only that "Someone might hear us." He retorts, "I can go anywhere and do anything.
Genji visits Kitayama, the northern rural hilly area of Kyoto, where he finds a beautiful ten-year-old girl. He is fascinated by this little girl ("Murasaki"), and discovers that she is a niece of the Lady Fujitsubo. Finally he kidnaps her, brings her to his own palace and educates her to be his ideal lady; like the Lady Fujitsubo. During this time Genji also meets the Lady Fujitsubo secretly, and she bears his son. Everyone except the two lovers believes the father of the child is the Emperor. Later the boy becomes the Crown Prince and Lady Fujitsubo becomes the Empress, but Genji and Lady Fujitsubo swear to keep their secret.
Genji and his wife Lady Aoi reconcile and she gives birth to a son, but she dies soon after. Genji is sorrowful, but finds consolation in Murasaki, whom he marries. Genji's father, the Emperor, dies; and his political enemies, the Minister of the Right and the new Emperor's mother ("Kokiden") take power in the court. Then another of Genji's secret love affairs is exposed: Genji and a concubine of his brother, the Emperor Suzaku, are discovered when they meet in secret. The Emperor confides his personal amusement at Genji's exploits with the woman ("Oborozukiyo"), but is duty-bound to punish his half-brother. Genji is thus exiled to the town of Suma in rural Harima province (now part of Kobe in Hyōgo Prefecture). There, a prosperous man from Akashi in Settsu province (known as the Akashi Novice) entertains Genji, and Genji has a love affair with Akashi's daughter. She gives birth to a daughter. Genji's sole daughter later becomes the Empress.
In the Capital, the Emperor is troubled by dreams of his late father, and something begins to affect his eyes. Meanwhile, his mother grows ill, which weakens her powerful sway over the throne. Thus the Emperor orders Genji pardoned, and he returns to Kyoto. His son by Lady Fujitsubo becomes the emperor and Genji finishes his imperial career. The new Emperor Reizei knows Genji is his real father, and raises Genji's rank to the highest possible.
However, when Genji turns 40 years old, his life begins to decline. His political status does not change, but his love and emotional life are slowly damaged. He marries another wife, the "Third Princess" (known as Onna san no miya in the Seidensticker version, or Nyōsan in Waley's). She bears the son of Genji's nephew later, ("Kaoru"). Genji's new marriage changes the relationship between him and Murasaki, who now wishes to become a nun.
Genji's beloved Murasaki dies. In the following chapter, Maboroshi ("Illusion"), Genji contemplates how fleeting life is. Immediately after Maboroshi, there is a chapter entitled Kumogakure ("Vanished into the Clouds") which is left blank, but implies the death of Genji.
The rest of the work is known as the "Uji Chapters". These chapters follow Niou and Kaoru, who are best friends. Niou is an imperial prince, the son of Genji's daughter, the current Empress now that Reizei has abdicated the throne, while Kaoru is known to the world as Genji's son but is in fact fathered by Genji's nephew. The chapters involve Kaoru and Niou's rivalry over several daughters of an imperial prince who lives in Uji, a place some distance away from the capital. The tale ends abruptly, with Kaoru wondering if the lady he loves is being hidden away by Niou. Kaoru has sometimes been called the first anti-hero in literature.
As mentioned in the previous section, the tale ends abruptly, in mid-sentence. Opinions have varied on whether the ending was the intended ending of the author.
Arthur Waley, who made the first English translation of the whole of The Tale of Genji, believed that the work as we have it was finished. Ivan Morris, author of The World of the Shining Prince, believed that it was not complete, but that only a few pages or a chapter at most were "missing". Edward Seidensticker, who made the second translation of the Genji, believed that it was not finished, and that Murasaki Shikibu did not have a planned story structure with an "ending" and would simply have gone on writing as long as she could.
Because it was written to entertain the Japanese court of the eleventh century, the work presents many difficulties to modern readers. First and foremost, Murasaki's language, Heian Period court Japanese, was highly inflected and had very complex grammar. Another problem is that naming people was considered rude in Heian court society, so none of the characters are named within the work; instead, the narrator refers to men often by their rank or their station in life, and to women often by the color of their clothing, or by the words used at a meeting, or by the rank of a prominent male relative. This results in different appellations for the same character depending on the chapter.
Another aspect of the language is the importance of using poetry in conversations. Modifying or rephrasing a classic poem according to the current situation was expected behavior in Heian court life, and often served to communicate thinly veiled allusions. The poems in the Genji are often in the classic Japanese tanka form. Many of the poems were well known to the intended audience, so usually only the first few lines are given and the reader is supposed to complete the thought herself, much like today we could say "when in Rome..." and leave the rest of the saying ("...do as the Romans do") unspoken.
As for most Heian literature, the Genji was probably written mostly (or perhaps entirely) in kana (Japanese phonetic script) and not in Chinese characters because it was written by a woman for a female audience. Writing in Chinese characters was at the time a masculine pursuit; women were generally discreet when writing in Chinese, confining themselves mostly to pure Japanese words.
Outside of vocabulary related to politics and Buddhism, the Genji contains remarkably few Chinese loan words. This has the effect of giving the story a very even, smooth flow. However, it also introduces confusion: there are a number of words in the "pure" Japanese vocabulary which have many different meanings, and, for modern readers, context is not always sufficient to determine which meaning was intended.
Murasaki was neither the first nor the last writer of the Heian period, nor was the Genji the earliest example of a "monogatari". Rather, the Genji stands above other tales of the time in the same way that Shakespeare's plays outshine other Elizabethan drama.
Both scholars and writers have tried translating it. The first translation into modern Japanese was made by the poet Yosano Akiko. Other known translations were done by the novelists Jun'ichirō Tanizaki and Fumiko Enchi.
Because of the cultural difference, reading an annotated version of the Genji is quite common, even among Japanese. There are several annotated versions by novelists, including Seiko Tanabe, Osamu Hashimoto and Jakucho Setouchi. Many works, including a manga series and different television dramas, are derived from The Tale of Genji. There have been at least five manga adaptations of the Genji. A manga version by Waki Yamato, Asakiyumemishi (The Tale of Genji in English), is widely read among Japanese youth, and another version, by Miyako Maki, won the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1989.
Most Japanese high-school students will read a little bit of the Genji (the original, not a translation) in their Japanese classes.
Major English translations in chronological order:
The last and therefore 54th chapter "The Floating Bridge of Dreams" is argued sometimes a separate part from the Uji part by the modern scholars. It seems to continue the story from the previous chapters, but has an unusually abstract chapter title. It is the only chapter whose title has no clear reference within the text, but this may be because the chapter is unfinished. (This question is more difficult because we do not know exactly when the chapters acquired their titles.)
The English translations here are taken from the Royall Tyler translation. It is not known for certain when the chapters acquired their titles. Early mentions of the Tale refer to chapter numbers, or contain alternate titles for some of the chapters. This may suggest that the titles were added later. The titles are largely derived from poetry that is quoted within the text, or allusions to various characters.
1 桐壺 Kiritsubo ("Paulownia Pavilion")
2 帚木 Hahakigi ("Broom Tree")
3 空蝉 Utsusemi ("Cicada Shell")
4 夕顔 Yūgao ("Twilight Beauty")
5 若紫 Wakamurasaki or Waka Murasaki ("Young Murasaki")
7 紅葉賀 Momiji no Ga ("Beneath the Autumn Leaves")
8 花宴 Hana no En ("Under the Cherry Blossoms")
9 葵 Aoi ("Heart-to-Heart")
10 榊 Sakaki ("Green Branch")
11 花散里 Hana Chiru Sato ("Falling Flowers")
12 須磨 Suma ("Suma"; a place name)
13 明石 Akashi ("Akashi"; another place name)
14 澪標 Miotsukushi ("Pilgrimage to Sumiyoshi")
15 蓬生 Yomogiu ("Waste of Weeds")
16 関屋 Sekiya ("At The Pass")
17 絵合 E Awase ("Picture Contest")
18 松風 Matsukaze ("Wind in the Pines")
19 薄雲 Usugumo ("Wisps of Cloud")
20 朝顔 Asagao ("Bluebell")
21 乙女 Otome ("Maidens")
22 玉鬘 Tamakazura ("Tendril Wreath")
23 初音 Hatsune ("Warbler's First Song")
24 胡蝶 Kochō ("Butterflies")
25 螢 Hotaru ("Fireflies")
26 常夏 Tokonatsu ("Pink")
27 篝火 Kagaribi ("Cressets")
28 野分 Nowaki ("Typhoon")
29 行幸 Miyuki ("Imperial Progress")
30 藤袴 Fujibakama ("Thoroughwort Flowers")
31 真木柱 Makibashira ("Handsome Pillar")
32 梅が枝 Umegae ("Plum Tree Branch")
33 藤のうら葉 Fuji no Uraha ("New Wisteria Leaves")
34 若菜上 Wakana: Jo ("Spring Shoots I")
35 若菜下 Wakana: Ge ("Spring Shoots II")
36 柏木 Kashiwagi ("Oak Tree")
37 横笛 Yokobue ("Flute")
38 鈴虫 Suzumushi ("Bell Cricket")
39 夕霧 Yūgiri ("Evening Mist")
40 御法 Minori ("Law")
41 幻 Maboroshi ("Seer")
X 雲隠 Kumogakure ("Vanished into the Clouds")
42 匂宮 Niō no Miya ("Perfumed Prince")
43 紅梅 Kōbai ("Red Plum Blossoms")
44 竹河 Takekawa ("Bamboo River")
45 橋姫 Hashihime ("Maiden of the Bridge")
46 椎が本 Shīgamoto ("Beneath the Oak")
47 総角 Agemaki ("Trefoil Knots")
48 早蕨 Sawarabi ("Bracken Shoots")
49 宿り木 Yadorigi ("Ivy")
50 東屋 Azumaya ("Eastern Cottage")
51 浮舟 Ukifune ("A Drifting Boat")
52 蜻蛉 Kagerō ("Mayfly")
53 手習 Te'narai ("Writing Practice")
54 夢の浮橋 Yume no Ukihashi ("Floating Bridge of Dreams")
The additional chapter between 41 and 42 in some manuscripts is called 雲隠 (Kumogakure) which means "Vanished into the Clouds" — the chapter is a title only, and is probably intended to evoke Genji's death. Some scholars have posited the existence of a chapter between 1 and 2 which is now lost, which would have introduced some characters that (as it stands now) appear very abruptly.
Later authors have composed additional chapters, most often either between 41 and 42, or after the end.
The original manuscript written by Murasaki Shikibu is no longer extant. Numerous copies, totaling around 300 according to Ikeda Kikan, exist with differences between each. It is thought that Shikibu often went back and edited early manuscripts introducing discrepancies with earlier copies.
The various manuscripts are classified into three categories: In the 13th century, two major attempts by Minamoto no Chikayuki and Fujiwara Teika were made to edit and revise the differing manuscripts. The Chikayuki manuscript is known as the Kawachibon; edits were many beginning in 1236 and completing in 1255. The Teika manuscript is known as the Aobyōshibon; its edits are more conservative and thought to better represent the original. These two manuscripts were used as the basis for many future copies.
The Beppon category represents all other manuscripts not belonging to either Kawachibon or Aobyōshibon. This includes older but incomplete manuscripts, mixed manuscripts derived from both Kawachibon and Aobyōshibon, and commentaries.
On March 10th, 2008 it was announced that a late Kamakura period manuscript was found in Kyōto. It is the sixth chapter "Suetsumuhana" and is 65 pages in length. Most remaining manuscripts are based on copies of the Teika manuscript which introduced revisions in the original. This newly discovered manuscript belongs to a different lineage and was not influenced by Teika. Professor Yamamoto Tokurō who examined the manuscript said, "This is a precious discovery as Kamakura manuscripts are so rare." Professor Katō Yōsuke said, "This is an important discovery as it asserts that non-Teika manuscripts were being read during the Kamakura period."
A twelfth century scroll, the Genji Monogatari Emaki, contains illustrated scenes from the Genji together with handwritten sōgana text. This scroll is the earliest extant example of a Japanese "picture scroll": collected illustrations and calligraphy of a single work. The original scroll is believed to have comprised 10-20 rolls and covered all 54 chapters. The extant pieces include only 19 illustrations and 65 pages of text, plus nine pages of fragments. This is estimated at roughly 15% of the envisioned original. The Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya has three of the scrolls handed down in the Owari branch of the Tokugawa clan and one scroll held by the Hachisuka family is now in the Gotoh Museum in Tokyo. The scrolls are designated National Treasures of Japan. The scrolls are so sensitive to light and air, that they are never shown in public and sealed away. An oversize English photoreproduction and translation was printed in limited edition by Kodansha International (Tale of Genji Scroll, ISBN 0-87011-131-0).
Other notable versions are by Tosa Mitsuoki, who lived from 1617 to 1691. His paintings are closely based on Heian style from the existing scrolls from the 12th century and are fully complete. The tale was also a popular theme in Ukiyo-e prints from the Edo period.
The Tale of Genji has been translated into cinematic form several times. In 1951 by director Kōzaburō Yoshimura, in 1966 by director Kon Ichikawa, and in 1987 by director Gisaburo Sugii. The latter is an animated film. The last is not a complete version, and basically covers the first 12 chapters, while adding in some psychological motivation that is not made explicit in the novel. In 2001 Tonko Horikawa made an adaptation with an all-female cast. In the movie, Sennen no Koi - Hikaru Genji Monogatari ("Genji, A 1000-Year Love"), Murasaki tells the Genji story to a girl as a lesson on men's behavior. The 1955 Kenji Mizoguchi film Yokihi (or Princess Yang Kwei-fei) can be seen as a sort of prequel to Genji.