Women Writers You should Know About #1: Murasaki Shikibu

Jane Austen, Iris Murdoch, Margaret Atwood, Harper Lee – inspirational authors of some of the best-loved literature of all time.

But what of those female writers who are not household names but have in their own way produced some of the most important literature of their time?

From the 10th Century AD to the modern day, we’ll profile women writers whose work deserves to reach a wider audience.

#1 Murasaki Shikibu

Statue of Murasaki Shikibu by Osarusan
Statue of Murasaki Shikibu by Osarusan
Fidelity (Shin), depicted as Murasaki Shikibu, from the series Five Cardinal Virtues, c. 1767, by Suzuki Harunobu - Art Institute of Chicago - DSC00256
Fidelity (Shin), depicted as Murasaki Shikibu, from the series Five Cardinal Virtues, c. 1767, by Suzuki Harunobu – Art Institute of Chicago – DSC00256

Murasaki Shikibu (c. 978 – c. 1014 or 1025) was a Japanese poet and writer. Her best-known work, The Tale of Genji, has been referred to as the world’s first classic novel – indeed it is also sometimes called the world’s first novel. The novel, tales of courtiers during the Heian Period, was written as separate episodes which Shikibu narrated to the yokibito, the Japanese aristocracy.

Shikibu herself was born into the aristocracy; unusually Shikibu was raised in her father’s household when usually wives and husbands kept separate households. Her real name, however, remains a mystery – women’s names were not recorded and the name Shikibu was a nickname culled from her father’s workplace, The Ministry of Ceremonials. Widowed at a young age, Shikibu began to write to alleviate her grief and secluding herself at the temple at Ishiyama-dera she was inspired to write The Tale of Genji – rumour has it while she gazed at the moon.

Shikibu died sometime between 1014 and 1025. Her legacy remains the creation and development of Japanese writing from the unrecorded spoken word to the written language.

To read more go here and here.

MF

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