World’s first novel up for grabs in online auction | india | Hindustan Times
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World’s first novel up for grabs in online auction

An online bookshop on Ebay has put a book written in 11th century up for sale, reports Madhusree Chatterjee.

india Updated: Oct 05, 2007 03:43 IST
Madhusree Chatterjee

THE WORLD’S first novel is under the hammer in the one-thousandth year of its birth.

The Kabookie’s Collectible Paperbacks, an online bookshop on Ebay, has put the The Tale of Genji: The Sacred Tree, a fictional account of a Japanese prince and his multiple loves, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, up for sale.

According to Kabookie, this is the second of the six volumes of the first novel written in human history — and by a woman.

The seller describes it as the proper book for anyone starting to build a comprehensive collection of literature. The five other volumes are The Tale of Genji (first part), A Wreath, Blue Trousers, The Lady On the Boat and The Bridge of Dreams. Only one copy is up for sale.

The week-and-five-hour (7 days 5 hours) bid will end on October 8. This is the first print of the first paperback edition of the novel written around 1,007-1,010 AD in imperial Japan, according to Encyclopedia Britannica Online. “This book was written in the beginning of the 11th century when Japan managed to evolve its own culture after snapping diplomatic ties with China in 894 AD. It is the first document in the traditional Japanese kana script marking the end of decades of Chinese cultural domination,” said Hajime Matsumura, director, Japan Information Services.

Shikibu, scholars say, may have started writing The Tale of the Genji before she came to court. But most of it was written in the palace and was based loosely on her years as the lady-in-waiting to Empress Akiko.

The tales of Prince Genji, known as “the Shining Prince,” meant to be read aloud, was a hit soon after its release. The early scrolls were lost, but the later manuscripts were translated into several languages.

“It is the story of a prince, the emperor’s son, who was endowed with all qualities but was forced to marry at the age of 12. He fell in love with many women and took good care of all of them,” a source said.

It is a kind of fable chronicling the society and mores of the 11th century Japan.