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Diary of Lady Murasaki (Penguin Classics) Paperback – October 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1 edition (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014043576X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140435764
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 4.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)

About the Author

Murasaki Shikibu, born in 978, was a member of Japan's Fujiwara clan, which ruled behind the scenes during the Heian Period by providing the brides and courtesans of all the emperors. Lady Murasaki's rare literary talent, particularly her skill as a poet, secured her a place in the court of Empress Akiko. After the death of her husband, she cloistered herself to study Buddhism, raise her daughter, and write the world's first novel Genji Monogatari, the tale of the shining Prince Genji.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By K. Maxwell on March 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
Aside from the "tale of Genji" this is the only known writings of Lady Murasaki. The book is slim, as not much of her personal diary survived. However, it does have a good introduction, including a VERY helpful picture of a court lady in her dress. If you ever read any of these old court diaries, you come to appreciate a good picture like this because the women who wrote these books dwelled, almost obessivly on what they wore.
The clarity and quality of the writing is this slim volume is very good, as good as what you will find in the pillow book of sei shonagon. This book is also a facinating read in conjuction with the latest novel by Liza Dalby "the tale of Murasaki". Anyone interested in Old Japanese litrature should had this title to their reading list.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Manuel Del Rio Rodriguez on March 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
This penguin volume is the paperback and easily accessed translation of the 'Diary of Murasaki Shikibu', a fragmentary piece written by the author of the much more famous and inspired 'Tale of Genji'. As Genji is probably the best work in all the history of Japanese literature, and as we know so little about its author, this diary (which is a fragented remain of the possible original) has acquired a certain relevance it would otherwise lack from purely literary and quality arguments.

The diary as said is a fragmented and patched-up remain of the original one that Murasaki Shikibu might have noted down. It mainly describes the events of 2 years when she was in the service of Empress Shoshi at the Tsuchimikado Palace. The main event in more than half of the book is the birth of Prince Atsunada, son of Shoshi and the reigning Emperor (Go-Ichijo) and grandson of Fujiwara no Michinaga (the all-powerful regent of that period of Heian Japan). The first 50 or so sections describe in detail the ceremonies held and gives a glimpse of courtier life of the times, so different from the idealized view that Murasaki would forge in the Genji. Here the courtiers tend to be rude, unsubtle and drunk, and the ladies (Murasaki included) bored, insecure and with a high tendency to gossip and critizising everyone else. The second part of the book includes some semblances of fellow-maids and courtiers, some of which were famous poets on their own (Ise no Taifu, Akazome Emon, Sei Shonagon), some ritual Gosechi Dances at the Imperial Palace and Murasaki's absence from the Courtly World. As in all Heian-era diaries, the events described are interspersed with poems written by Murasaki and others for the occasion. Heian courtiers were expected to produce them quite spontaneously as a matter of fact.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brynnlux on June 23, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading this. I kind of wish I'd read the Tale of Genji first though. I will have to order that one next, and then move on The Pillow Book. This book was so slim, I had no idea it would take only 2 nights for me to right it. The introduction and appendixes take up more space than the actual diary does! Which is fine. The diary is full of information even though it is very short. I really enjoyed the rich detail, especially about the birth of the prince and the clothing of the ladies at court. Reading about all the gifts to the prince at his birth makes even the most elaborate modern baby showers look shabby for sure! I plan to read more about this time period and then go back and read the diary again because I'm sure I'll get more out of it after I know more about the period.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
The "Diary of Lady Murasaki," displays the customs and lifestyles of women during the Heian period (794-1192 A.D.). She was born into the Fujiwara family, and entered in to court services. Murasaki's diary gives an exuberant description of court life and gives the reader a look into her personal thoughts.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Maybe it's Arthur Waley who made any book beautiful. I read his English translations of monkey, tale of gengi, and this diary. Just smitten by the beauty of language. Maybe the original works were not as beautiful. Maybe they were. That remains in mystery.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great insight in court life in the 10th-11th century Japan. The introduction really was helpful. Somehow the characters come to life thru her keen observations. I will re-read The Tale of Prince Genji with new eyes.
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