Short short with English summary
There is a Japanese novel, a love romance, one of the oldest long novels in the world, consists of 54 chapters, $B!H(BThe Tale of Prince Genji$B!I(B.$B!!(B Last year, AD2008 was the millennium of this $B!H(BThe Tale of Prince Genji$B!I(B.$B!!(B The novel was written by a female author, $B!H(BMurasaki Shikibu$B!I(B.$B!!(B Not only the novel has been read for one thousand years, there are innumerable numbers of fine art works with motives taken from the novel. $B!!(BThe scrolls, the picture stories, are also very nice, beautiful and famous.
In the world, there are many literal materials which have been read by people for thousands of years such as $B!H(BThe Analects of Confucius$B!I(B, $B!I(BThe Bible$B!I(B and $B!I(BThe Iliad$B!I(B.$B!!(B But these are not the novels in today$B!G(Bs definition.$B!!(B $B!H(BThe Tale of Prince Genji$B!I(B could be entitled as the oldest long novel in the world.$B!!(B The plays of Shakespeare are not novels.$B!!(B Perhaps it isn$B!G(Bt so essential if you have read them or not.$B!!(B By the way, $B!H(BTales from Shakespeare$B!I(B by Charles and Mary Lam has been a rather common English textbook even in Japanese high school.
$B!H(BThe Tale of Prince Genji$B!I(B is a Japanese novel.$B!!(B Shall we read the original, one thousand years old?$B!!(B No, naturally, for most of us, it is impossible. $B!!(BThen there are modern Japanese versions. $B!!(BBut, for one thousand years, how could the novel have kept its popularity?$B!!(B So few copies. $B!!(BNo prints. $B!!(BHow was the ratio of the literacy of women?$B!!(B Were there many male enthusiastic readers?$B!!(B It is said Japan has been a male society for long time.$B!!(B How could Samurai$B!G(Bs moral code have co-existed with the Genji$B!G(Bs way of life?
Around AD1000 was the period when European kings converted to Christianity.$B!!(B These one thousand years while the lives of Europeans have been restricted by so called the Christian moral,$B!!(B Japanese have enjoyed $B!H(BThe Tale of Prince Genji$B!I(B.