If you've been reading this blog recently, you know that I've been reading (and enjoying) The Tale of Genji. I'll do my best not to reiterate anything I've said already, but that shouldn't be hard considering there are so many great things happening in this book.
First of all, the briefest of synopses. The Tale of Genji follows 4 generations of individuals in Japan's Imperial court during the late 10th Century (which is also when it was originally written). Though Genji is the main character, he is not the only one we get to know in this epic tale.
Ultimately, though, it's not what happens in The Tale of Genji that makes it so appealing (not to say that there isn't a lot that happens. Here's a quick rundown off the top of my head: sex, rape, death, cuckolding, spirit possession, exorcism, suicide, inclement weather, exile, love, jealousy, infidelity.) It is the characters, and the reality of their hopes, fears, joys, heartaches, desires, and transgressions that make Genji such a compelling work of fiction. Or, in Genji's own words:
"Not that tales accurately describe any particular person, rather, the telling begins when all those things the teller longs to have pass on to future generations – whatever there is about the way people live their lives, for better or worse, that is a sight to see or a wonder to hear – overflows the teller’s heart" (461).
I think I have already given The Tale of Genji the highest recommendation that I can - I spent the last month reading, and enjoying, all 1120 pages. At no point did I even consider giving up, or reading something else instead. I never got bored, I never even motivated myself with another book (which I do all the time). In fact, the only frustration I did feel in the last month was frustration over not having more time to read. If you have the opportunity, you should definitely pick up The Tale of Genji. Between its individual style and unique place in history and literature, you won't ever read anything else quite like it.
"How true it is that bitter experience yields fond memories!" (815).