That many candles would burn the book down

This year marks a very important date in literary history. It’s the anniversary of one of the oldest works in literature, The Tale of Genji.

The classic work of Japanese literature is considered by some to be the very first modern novel. Others argue that honor belongs to Don Quioxte by Miguel de Cervantes. This is a debate for literary scholars, however, there is no disputing that the two works bear similar elements. Both are written in chapters, revolve around a central character and numerous minor characters and concern the life and adventures of a central male figure.

No one is absolutely certain of the name of the author of the Tale of Genji. The 54 chapter work is ascribed to Murasaki Shikibu, or Lady Murasaki, the daughter of a minor noble who served in the Japanese court as a lady-in-waiting. Her remarkable saga of the son of a Japanese emporer who is granted commoner status and becomes an officer in the Imperial Army and follows his many romantic relationships, both secret and public.

The Tale of Genji is a staple for students of Japanese literature. Pick up a copy at the Library. But only one. The novel is told in six parts and clocks in at over one thousand pages.