Genji Monogatari is the first psychological novel
Murasaki Shikibu: The Tale of Genji, trans. Edward Seidensticker
The first moment of jarring strangeness in Lady Murasaki's great novel comes when her hero, the shining Genji, settles for the embraces of a young boy go-between, rather than his reluctant sister. From there, the novel goes on to explore ever more complex psychological dimensions of incest, the Don Juan complex, and married love. Each chapter is composed with the care and precision of a poem, and the author's elusive / allusive prose conceals the Jane Austen-like precision with which she charts her two heroes' foibles and self-delusions. Somewhere in between Seidensticker's robust and spare translation and Arthur Waley's Proustian expansion it may, perhaps, be possible for the English reader to grasp the lineaments of the original work. The greatest novel ever written? The first psychological novel in any language? The first anti-hero (Kaoru, Genji's nephew) in world literature? Each of these statements could be defended, but perhaps it would be more to the point to say that the Genji should be as essential to the truly educated reader as Homer or Tolstoy.