The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby

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The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby

Dalby’s The Tale of Murasaki, a fictional biography of Murasaki Shikibu, an 11th-century court poet, whose work The Tale of Genji is considered a classic, was published in 2000. Dalby says that she decided to write a fictional account of Murasaki’s life because she “couldn’t contribute anything scholarly”. Fascinated by the 11th-century Heian period court culture, she wove much of it into the book: writing about the clothing the women wore; the love affairs they had; the manner in which poetry was frequently exchanged; and that women lived in seclusion, behind screens, with their faces often unseen by lovers. Dalby explains that the geisha society did not develop until at least 500 years later, and that a court lady-in-waiting such as Murasaki would not have had the temperament to be a geisha because Murasaki was reserved, whereas geisha are expected to be outgoing.

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