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Recognized as the world’s first novel, Murasaki Shikibu’s “The Tale of Genji” is a spiraling epic that encompasses a beautifully complex portrayal of 11th-century Japanese Imperial Court life.

Penned by a noblewoman, the novel starts with the birth of Genji, the “Shining Prince,” a son of an emperor. Although much of the book follows Genji’s growth and later exhaustive amorous pursuits, don’t expect a straightforward line of action. Also acknowledged for its psychological study, the novel continues its contemplation of aristocratic society after Genji dies, with the final quarter of the novel presenting the exploits of another young prince, revealing the superiority of Genji by comparison.

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