Tale of Genji

The Tale of Genji is an ancient and grand novel which has themes, traditions, and prose that still sparkle in today's limelight.

Although it is beyond the scope of this write up to review the Tale of Genji (as it is 54 chapters long spanning well over 1000 pages), nevertheless, there are some over riding themes worth highlighting. One of those interesting themes is the traditional Japanese theme of "mono no aware," the deep awareness of the impermanence of youth, love, and beauty intertwined. The tale revolves around the interactions between Genji (the protaganist) and the women he has relationships with. The themes, then, stretch from love, friendship, to death.

The characterisation is a special element of the book as there are hundreds of different characters. The plot is fairly simple, as it depends upon which character you are reading to what is happening in the story. Another Japanese tradition this book founded; characters do not necessarily have names, but rather, they have designations, or they are defined by their relationship to the central figure - Genji.

The Tale of Genji can be read as kind of Buddhist parable. Throughout the book, karma is touched upon and eventually made into a reality. In the beginning of the book Genji has an affair with one of his fathers wives (the culture is based on an polygamous marriage system) and later on in the book, the same thing happens to him. Albeit a mammoth task to read such a long book, the reader will glimpse at a culture and life whose influence still hangs in the air to this day.