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Genji monogatari

(tr The Tale of Genji) By general repute the supreme masterpiece of Japanese prose literature. Written in the early 11th century, it has been called the first great novel in world literature. More than 1,000 pages in translation, it has an essentially simple plot, describing the life and loves of an erstwhile prince known, from his family name, as "the shining Genji"; after his death, the work describes the less successful loves of a youth, Kaoru, who passes as Genji's son, but is in fact the grandson of his best friend. Written by a court lady known as Murasaki Shikibu, early surviving texts are fragmentary. Only from medieval (12th-16th centuries) texts have complete, though non-definitive, texts been put together. The Tale of Genji has been an enormous influence on later literature and other art forms and on popular lore as well. It is one of the principal sources for drama, has been adapted for the Kabuki stage, and appears in cinema and on television. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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