Monday, March 8, 2010

Women's day - Genji's Tale

Today is International women's day - which again reminds me of Women's christmas - why do we need a women's day? do the rest of the days belong to men?

Anyways - just thought it'd be a nice day to let ye know we started it.

Yes. Women were first at writing classical literature - the Tale of Genji was the first ever psychological novel, and it was written by a woman, and I have to say - while I haven't read it, I think it sounds like a pretty great piece of work. This woman Murasaki - wrote the book sometime in the 11th Century. The plot summary on Wikipedia goes like this -
(summarised further by myself - also a woman - for your convenience)

Genji is a kid who loves his stepmother, then falls in love with her later, when he gets a bit older. She quite likes him too, but they're not allowed get together.
He marries someone he doesn't like much then goes around trying to meet someone else - but everyone he meets either dies suddenly, doesn't like him, or turns out to be boring. He meets the neice of his stepmam and fancies her, so kidnaps her at the age of ten. In the meantime he also has an affair with the stepmam and this leads to them having a son (no one but the two of them know who the dad is).
He makes friends with his wife again and she has another son, and then she dies, so then he marries the neice of his stepmam. Genjis dad dies, so his older half-brother's in power, Genji - the rogue - has also been with this half-brother's concubine - so he gets exiled away out the country where he makes friends with a rich man and gets this rich man's daughter pregnant. Meanwhile Genji is forgiven, and brought back and his son becomes emperor.
Then Genji turns 40.... 40!!! He marries another woman, and the neice of the stepmam wants to join the nuns, then she dies. Then Genji thinks about how short life is, then he dies. (well we think he dies - the author leaves a chapter blank to imply this) Then there's a bit of a bit about Genji's grandson and a guy that everyone thinks is his son - but is actually his nephew's son.

Fair City would have nothing on this would it? a rip-roaring tale if ever I heard one. I'm impressed with the innovation here - with the blank chapter, also the whole extra long - few chapters at the end after the real ending - which sounds like a "Lord of the Rings" precursor... But also - most impressively - it was considered rude to name people back then in Japan, so the author told this story alot of the time without their names and just using their clothes or position in society instead... The book also ends half way through a sentance - which is fairly cool in my .....................

Women are so cool. We rule.


Titus said...

Yes, we are and do.
Is this really the first psychological novel? Lot of Greek epic type stuff going on and what about Gilgamesh?

Niamh B said...

Computer says "Epic of Gilgamesh" is a poem. I don't know really, don't ever bet your house based on information from this blog - that's all I'll advise you...

Titus said...

Ah, with you now. It is a poem, as are the Greek ones, of course (except the ones that are plays) (in verse).
Gilgamesh is brilliant as a psychological read! But not a novel.

The Dead Acorn said...

"Women are so cool. We rule."

That's pretty hard to argue with. As a male, I would like to thank you, as a gender, for your benevolence in said ruling.

Ross said...

Yep, it appears, in fact, to be the first ever novel at all. It's great and full of poems as well. In the Japanese Imperial Court (10th or 11th century), men and women communicated via artfully drawn couplets (Japanese being very visual) such as:
"The heart of a parent is not in darkness/yet he wanders lost in thoughts upon his child" or
"I would give a life for which I have no regrets/if I could postpone a little the time of parting". These formed an ongoing dialogue, which is very cool indeed for a novel in any age.

Niamh B said...

Hmm - perhaps you could summarise Gilgamesh for us Titus?
Dead Acorn - you're welcome
Hi Ross, thanks for those... I read too that alot of the poems that were quoted were left unfinished within the book because they were famous at the time and readers would have known the endings - saved on ink and paper at the time - but makes it even harder for new readers to appreciate.

Titus said...

Not tonight, but I'll get back to you! It features, obliquely, in a poem of mine.