Humanities › History & Culture Biography of Murasaki Shikibu Author of the World's First Novel Share Flipboard Email Print Murasaki Shikibu, scroll on silk. De Agostini Picture Library / Getty Images History & Culture Women's History Important Figures History Of Feminism Key Events Women's Suffrage Women & War Laws & Womens Rights Feminism & Pop Culture Feminist Texts American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century View More By Jone Johnson Lewis Women's History Writer B.A., Mundelein College M.Div., Meadville/Lombard Theological School Jone Johnson Lewis is a women's history writer who has been involved with the women's movement since the late 1960s. She is a former faculty member of the Humanist Institute. our editorial process Jone Johnson Lewis Updated March 18, 2017 Murasaki Shikibu (c. 976-978 - c. 1026-1031) is known for writing what is considered the world's first novel, The Tale of Genji. Shikibu was a novelist and a court attendant of Empress Akiko of Japan. Also known as Lady Murasaki, her real name is not known. "Murasaki" means "violet" and may have been taken from a character in The Tale of Genji. Early Life Murasaki Shikibu was born a member of the cultured Fujiwara family of Japan. A paternal great-grandfather had been a poet, as was her father, Fujiwara Tamatoki. She was educated alongside her brother, including learning Chinese and writing. Personal Life Murasaki Shikibu was married to another member of the extensive Fujiwara family, Fujiwara Nobutaka, and they had a daughter in 999. Her husband died in 1001. She lived quietly until 1004, when her father became governor of the province of Echizen. The Tale of Genji Murasaki Shikibu was brought to the Japanese imperial court, where she attended the Empress Akiko, Emperor Ichijo's consort. For two years, from about 1008, Murasaki recorded in a diary what happened at court and what she thought about what happened. She used some of what she'd recorded in this diary to write a fictional account of a prince named Genji —and therefore the first known novel. The book, which covers four generations through Genji's grandson, was probably meant to be read aloud to her main audience, women. Later Years After the emperor Ichijo died in 1011, Murasaki retired, perhaps to a convent. Legacy The book The Tale of Genji was translated into English by Arthur Waley in 1926.