People’s quest for a novel is unending. Novel reading is a mind relaxing hobby as it enhances the analysis of thinking as well as empathy. But did novels exist centuries ago and what was the first and oldest novel. Many oldest books are preserved at the museum but does it true for the novel as well and what is the oldest novel? Perhaps we know the answer. The Tale of Genji is the world’s oldest novel.

Oldest Novel

In many ways, The Tale of Genji can be considered as the world’s first novel or even the world’s first psychological novel. 

Virginia woof hundreds of years ago found out, the English translation by Arthur Waley, and people think that’s the moment when we can think of  The Tale of Genji as being considered a work of international literature.

For the first time when the character jumped out and one of the ways that happened was through a kind of writing in which you have a sense that you are in character’s thought.

There is an incredible sense of interiority.

Some things are common to our understanding of the novel in terms of even the use of irony.

There is a kind of distancing effect. While the historian still believes some of the novels came earlier than The Tale of Genji.

The impression of The Tale of Genji is unparalleled.  The Tale of Genji is a prose narrative written 1000 years ago.

It is 1300 pages in the most recent English translation.  So it is a monumental work of literature.

It is all we have at this scale. And it is remarkable because it was never really equaled again.

The Tale of Genji follows the life and romance of its titular character, the prince Hikaru Genji.

Oldest Novel

There were several men throughout time who actually sort of felt a kind of sympathy with Genji.  Who saw themselves in Genji because he had flaws and he also had praised.  Because he had a moment of political power as well as he also had a moment of political weakness.

One of the most unique aspects of this novel about a man is that it was written by Murasaki Shikibu, a woman.  Murasaki Shikibu was a woman who was born into the middle ranks of the aristocracy.

She produced this literary works in a kind of female salon at the imperial court. Keep in mind when the tale was written, a new form of writing called “Kana” was used.

This is the type of writing used to transcribe the vernacular languages of Japanese.  And women of the time were writing vernacular. So women writers were capable to express themselves so eloquently.

And the writing system they used was at the time called onna-de. Onna- de means the “women’s hand”

So Murasaki Shikibu was writing in the mode of literature that was at her time deprecate. Fiction was on the lower rung of the scale of the genre hierarchies.

But she produced such an incredible “tour de force work” of literature that it had to be taken seriously.

By focusing on the female writer, the female authorship, that’s an interesting way to encourage readers to approach it in a new way.

If you read about Genji the character and all of his exploits, so always keep in mind there is kind of ventriloquism going on, then, in fact, there is kind of female voice behind Genji as a character.

People find The Tale of Genji interesting because it was the oldest novel and written by a female. The tale is a fine combination of happy and sad moments. 


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