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The sensitive and modest daughter of a mid-ranking court poet, Murasaki Shikibu staves off loneliness with her active imagination, telling stories about the dashing Prince Genji to her close friends. At first, they are their private entertainment, but soon Genji's amorous adventures are leaked to the public and Murasaki is thrust into the life of a kind of 11th century Japanese celebrity. She is compelled by a charismatic regent to accept a position at court regaling the empress with her stories. At court, Lady Murasaki becomes caught in a vortex of high politics and sexual intrigue, which begins to reflect itself in her stories. In this way, she comes to write her masterpiece, The Tale of Genji.
But this is much more than just an elegantly plotted historical novel. The Tale of the Murasaki is a beautiful work of literary archaeology. Dalby, the only Westerner to have become a geisha and the author of the definitive book, Geisha, subtly reconstructs the fashions, sensibilities, manners, and preoccupations of 11th-century Japan. The result is a vivid portrait of a woman and her times, the most splendid in Japanese history. In The Tale of the Murasaki, Dalby transports her readers to an exotic world and time and wraps them in a story that speaks clearly across the centuries. It is a dazzling literary achievement and a truly unique and wonderful reading experience.
"The Tale of the Murasaki brings vividly to life the fascinating eleventh-century world of the creator of Japan's enduring masterpiece The Tale of Genji. Liza Dalby is not just a remarkable scholar of Japan—she is a keen storyteller."—Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha