While spending one complete year each on the study of Japanese and Chinese literature (in translation), it was a pleasure to experience the cultural differences among the Western body of writings and their emergence in ancient sagas, historical depictions and the short story and novel, and the stark difference in the formation of the body of literature of the other two cultures. In the Japanese tradition, reading Sei Shonagon and her 'Pillow Book', and the poetry and travels of Basho, the short stories like, 'Some Prefer Nettles' and even the modern phenomenological works, like the one about that teacher who came to class drunk and watched his world dissolve around him. (My library is packed for a move and I can't recall the title or author.)

Through it all, one thing has eluded me and that is the significance of The Tale of Genji. It feels like in the interlude where, while traveling through a snowy landscape, the entire entourage was halted so that Prince Genji could observe an early blossom popping up through the snow, while everyone stood in reverence and admired him. I can only assume that it is my lack of cultural exposure to the aspect of the role of the aristocracy in ancient Japan. Can someone enlighten me?

My question has to do with the overall storyline and development. Not unlike my reading, again in English, of À la recherche du temps perdu, I am failing to grasp the significance of the task. Perhaps I'm requesting a synopsis and rationale for the reverence it appears to be held in.



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