The Diary of Lady Murasaki, Paperback Book

The Diary of Lady Murasaki Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


The Diary recorded by Lady Murasaki (c. 973-c. 1020), author of The Tale of Genji, is an intimate picture of her life as tutor and companion to the young Empress Shoshi.

Told in a series of vignettes, it offers revealing glimpses of the Japanese imperial palace - the auspicious birth of a prince, rivalries between the Emperor's consorts, with sharp criticism of Murasaki's fellow ladies-in-waiting and drunken courtiers, and telling remarks about the timid Empress and her powerful father, Michinaga.

The Diary is also a work of great subtlety and intense personal reflection, as Murasaki makes penetrating insights into human psychology - her pragmatic observations always balanced by an exquisite and pensive melancholy.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 144 pages, Illustrations, geneal. table,map,plans
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Autobiography: general
  • ISBN: 9780140435764

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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Interesting as being the diary of the author of the Tale of Genji, though the diary itself is not as colorful as that of her contemporary Sei Shonagon. The most interesting moment may be the one in which she rejects the powerful Fujiwara chancellor

Review by

As Richard Bowring, the translator and editor of THE DIARY OF LADY MURASAKI, points out, this compilation of Lady Murasaki's writings is a mixed bag -- partially diary, partially a public account of the birth of the Emperor's first son, and partially a discussion and description of Murasaki's fellow court attendants and the royal family. It's more interesting as a commentary on Heian court life than as a memoir or a narrative. However, it is pale background to Murasaki's masterpiece, THE TALE OF GENJI.

Review by

Murasaki is the author of one of Japan's acclaimed literary accomplishments, [The Tale of Genji]. While I've read excerpts of this novel in college, and own a lovely hardcover boxed edition, I haven't actually read it yet. The book currently resides on my "interested, definitely will read someday but not quite yet, because it's an important piece of literary history" shelf. I only bought the diary as a companion for when I actually read Genji, so why am I reading it now? I have this challenge, you see, with 9 categories of books, and one of them is for autobiographies and such, and I had this trip to China and needed a light book, and ... voila. Another seemingly random book choice based on a variety of factors.Am I the only one that creates endless (and endlessly revised) reading lists only to discard them at the last moment in favor of a book that I hadn't even thought of before but somehow now feel is entirely appropriate?This diary is mildly interesting, but I think it would be much better in conjunction with the book that inspired me to buy it. I am interested in the Heian period in Japanese history, but the diary is limited to a small period of time covering approximately two months. Not a lot of history is revealed. Add to that the fact that this is a diary, which means that Murasaki assumes the reader (just herself, or was it court instigated?) will have immense amounts of knowledge which I am lacking. The footnotes were helpful, along with the lengthy introduction, but I was in desperate need of better context. The self reflections, where Murasaki dissects her fellow courtiers and herself, are much easier to read. Seeing that world from the view of one of its inhabitants, and a female at that, is fascinating. It made me eager to read other diaries from the period, ones that are more complete. It also reinvigorated my wish to read [Tale of Genji]. Maybe I will consider that book as an addition to another challenge category, unfinished college books.This book is exactly what it claims to be: a diary by Murasaki Shikibu, with all the limitations a diary would manifest. My best recommendation would be to read this along with the famous story by that author, or if you have a scholarly interest in Murasaki, Heian Japan, or Japanese cuture, because the book as a whole reads like research material. I was interested, not terribly excited, but inspired to read more from that period.

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