Magazine article The New Yorker

The Origins of the Novel

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Origins of the Novel

Article excerpt

"In a certain reign (whose can it have been?) someone of no very great rank, among all His Majesty's Consorts and Intimates, enjoyed exceptional favor." So begins Royall Tyler's limpid new English translation--the first in twenty-five years--of Murasaki Shikibu's eleventh-century work THE TALE OF GENJI (Viking). Tyler's delicate ear for the language of the original helps breathe new life into the story of Genji, the illegitimate son of the emperor by his favorite concubine, who becomes a rising star at court and a prolific seducer of women before his dalliances catch up with him. Murasaki's work, which some consider the world's first novel, provides an incomparable glimpse into the political, aesthetic, and erotic aspects of the Heian court.

The first illustrations of Genji's adventures seem to have appeared shortly after the text itself, but these images have been lost. …

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