Magic as advanced technology

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Sat Sep 18 13:12:35 EDT 2004

On Fri, 17 Sep 2004 18:38:45 -0500, Margaret Ball wrote:

>But then there's Genji, which I've heard tell is the first Oriental
>novel, or anyway the first Japanese novel, or the first
>somethingorother, and it doesn't strike me that way. Though I've read it
>only in translation, and I suppose it's possible the translators took a
>lot of liberties. Anybody know?

It's usually said that _The Tale of Genji_ is the earliest *novel* in the
world, meaning that it's the earliest example of something modern readers
can recognize as a novel from any culture.  However, _Genji_ is part of a
larger tradition of female epistolary/novel writing in Heian Japan (wow,
that sounds so educated!) and isn't really the first writing that the
*Japanese* were doing, coming out of an oral culture.  By the time _Genji_
appeared, the literary tradition was well established.  That might explain
why it doesn't read the same as other firsts of oral-to-written culture.

I only have the Seidensticker abridgement, so I can't speak to all
translations, but he seems to be fairly rigorous with his.  I can't read the
abridgment as a novel because the large chunks of irrelevant (to the main
story) text that got cut have teeny important details that were lost as
well.  I always feel as though I'm missing something important.  But reading
*about* _Genji_ is quite interesting.

Melissa Proffitt

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