Distinguished Women of Past and Present

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Murasaki Shikibu

Murasaki Shikibu (978?-1026?), Japanese novelist, one of her country's greatest writers, and the author of what is generally considered the world's first novel, The Tale of Genji (first trans. by Arthur Waley in 6 vol., 1925-32). Little is known about the author (including her real name), except that she was married to Fujiwara Nobutaka and that she kept a diary of court life, which she transformed into a novel after her husband's death. The Tale of Genji concerns the amorous adventures of the fictional Prince Genji and the more staid lives of his descendants. The novel paints a charming and apparently accurate picture of Japanese court life in the Heian period, during the reign of Empress Akiko, whom Murasaki Shikibu attended. Among the novel's chief delights are the portraits of the women in Prince Genji's life. These women are individually described, with their aristocratic refinements, talents in the arts of music, drawing, and poetry, and love for the beauties of nature. As the work nears its conclusion, the tone becomes more mature and somber, shaded by Buddhist judgments on the fleeting joys of earthly existence.

"Murasaki Shikibu" Microsoft(R) Encarta.
Copyright(c) 1995 Microsoft Corporation.