Written a thousand years ago by Murasaki Shikibu, a 30 year-old lady in waiting of the 11th century Japanese Heian Court, The Tale of Genji is considered the world’s first novel. It’s a story of politics and intrigue, of sexual conquests, frustrated love and jealousy, of the relationship between art and nature, and of the relationship between nature and the spiritual. Every person schooled in Japan can recite the beginning by heart. Scenes from The Tale of Genji have been the subject of paintings for a millennium and passages from the book have been copied and referenced in plays, poems and novels ever since its writing. Vancouver documentary maker Teresa Goff considers why the novel continues to fascinate.
This programme was first aired by the CBC show Ideas on May 20, 2009