The tales of Genji (1008) by Lady Murusaki

Tosa_Mitsuoki—Portrait_of_Murasaki_ShikibuThe plot: The book follows Genji’s life, his ups and downs and many, many love affairs.

Even those people who have no sorrow of their own often feel melancholy from the circumstances in which they are placed.

My thoughts: I wanted this blog to be about books I liked that haven’t, for one reason or another, received much notice in the bookosphere. The tales of Genji skirts that definition. I’m not thinking about how The tales of Genji isn’t a lesser known gem, because it’s lesser known enough. I’m referring to the fact that I don’t know if I like this book. On one hand the book has moments of brilliant prose.

in the mountains the cherry trees were in full bloom, and the farther he went, the lovelier the veils of mist became, until for him, whose rank so restricted travel that all this was new, the landscape became a source of wonder.

genjiAnd I can’t help but admire the complexity of a book that spans over 70 years and over 300 characters. I also love how much insight this book possibly gives into the life at court in 10th century Japan. On the other hand, I’m just not feeling any chemistry with Genji. This book focuses a lot on Genji’s love life, and he does some thing we wouldn’t approve of today, like kidnapping an 8-10 years old girl to groom her to be his lover, because she looks like his dead mother. My problem isn’t that he kidnaps this girl, but I struggle to understand how this kidnapping is supposed to be framed. This has in part to do with my lack of knowledge of Heian culture, the huge cast that is thankfully easier to follow than a Russian cast, and my just lack of chemistry with Genji as a character.

genji 2This is the second time I read the book, and I liked it better the second time. I could enjoy the complexity of the story, the historical aspects to it and the prose. I also love the fact that Genji’s story is divided on 54 scrolls and each tell a story of Genji, which gives the whole thing a serialisation vibe. Not to mention, The Tale of Genji has really, really old fanfiction. I still don’t jell well with Genji.


Have you ever read a book where you just didn’t click with the main character for some reason? Can you talk about chemistry with written characters? Leave your comments down below.

2 thoughts on “The tales of Genji (1008) by Lady Murusaki

Add yours

  1. Regarding your question on whether one can talk about chemistry with a written character, I would like to refer to the often cited fact that readers of prose are more empatic than non-readers.

    Also, there are times when one don’t even want to click the main character. There are novels written from the perspectives of killers and cannibals. The one I know best is Hannibal rising by Thomas Harris, where we for the first time follows Hannibal Lecter as a main character. Would i like to have chemistry with that character?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get what you’re refering to, and I agree that in person I wouldn’t want chemistry With a man like Hannibal Lector. But, do you think that chemistry is the same on all Levels? Why do you think People like to read books like Hannibal rising? Could it be that while we wouldn’t want to be friends With all characters, there is still a way to Connect With characters whom we don’t like?


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