Fiction, Opinion

Was The Tale of Genji the Greatest Novel Ever Written or Just the “Greatest” Novel Ever Written?

The Tale of Genji
Image by GregPC via Flickr

Written just after 1000 A.D., The Tale of Genji is recorded as the earliest novel ever written.  It is also arguably the greatest novel ever written, being fifty-four books in length.  One only needs to research the setting to enjoy this delightful tale.  It would seem that the novel also inspired young aristocrats of the period.  Recently, while searching through As I Crossed the Bridge of Dreams (Sarahshina), I was remindedof Genji’s Tales and wondered; because of its ability to inspire and the countless other stories that have been published because of it, was this the greatest novel ever written?

If the purpose of the writer is to tell a good tale, to inspire, to transport the reader to a particular time and place, can it be said that the truly great novels are actually very rare?  Is the art of fine writing lost on today’s writer’s?  Arguably, writing has become somewhat commercial.  We’re all digital publishing, op. ed. ing, and K.I.S.S.(ing) everything we write.  Is it possible that writers, who I believe are the purest artists left in the world, are “selling out to the man?”    What was the last story you penned where you did not confine yourself by deadlines and page length?

One might argue, Genji’s author, Murasaki Shikibu had plenty of time and little else to do which would encourage great writing but it had to be much more than that. When I begin a character’s tale, there is no time and space, only his/her story that must be told.  when defining a character’s world, the description is in the detail.  Is he in one of the bedrooms or is he in his mother’s un-kept bedroom, standing beside her chaise, where she’d thrown her nightgown the morning  she was killed?

Are there still great novels yet to be written or has our need to “get it out there, to get it sold,” caused us to settle for a good story?


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