Tale of Genji Crime Blotter – Week One

22 Jun

As has been noted in the last two posts, the infamous indirection of classical Japanese is insufficient to mask the fact that Genji is up to some serious — and in some cases punishable by long prison stints — hanky-panky. Indeed, at the beginning of the second chapter, our author warns us that Genji is utterly deplorable, but is at a loss to say whether his mostly successful efforts to keep his waywardness from being noised abroad make his sins better or worse. Well, as an attorney, I am unable to resist the desire to see them enumerated, in the cold light of day, according to modern American criminal and tort law. So without further ado, here are THE CRIMES OF GENJI, through the first four chapters. I have also, for the sake of completeness, described his torts.

1 count rape (of Utsusemi)

2 counts criminal trespass (entering Utsusemi’s rooms twice without permission or invitation, once to rape her, and once when he makes a second attempt and accidentally gets caught up with her Go-playing friend)

1 petty larceny (taking Utsusemi’s shift)

1-to-infinite counts stalking (Genji of Utsusemi; Koremitsu of Yugao, on Genji’s directions)

1-to-infinite counts of aiding/abetting/accessory before-and-after-the-fact for stalking (Utsusemi’s little brother, for helping Genji to harass his sister; Genji, for directing Koremitsu to spy on Yugao)

1 negligent homicide (Yugao)

At civil law, Genji could probably could get sued for assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress on Utsusemi, as well as conversion, for making off with her shift. Depending on the jurisdiction, outrage may also be a possibility, since inveigling her little brother into helping him was total creep stuff. Yugao’s family could likely sue Koremitsu/Genji for invasion of privacy (all that spying!) and Genji for wrongful death, as it’s just plain irresponsible for anyone as handsome as the Shining Genji to go larking around with ladies in old castles, given the 100% probability that those castles are haunted by jealous ghosts.

So, quite a parade of horribles! Barren of its lines of flower-referencing poetry, the tale is one of aristocratic decadence and moral turpitude, fit to make a marxist sigh and dream sweet dreams. What vile violations will the next four chapters hold? One shudders to think.


7 Responses to “Tale of Genji Crime Blotter – Week One”

  1. johnlingan June 22, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    Ahh, but Maureen, the flower-referencing poetry only enhances the aristocratic decadence and moral turpitude! A rapist with a silver tongue… what could be slimier?

    That said, the first 100 or so pages of this book seem much more dastardly when you lay the action out like this. Bravo.

  2. Dee Brown June 22, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    Taken in our current cultural context, Genji is indeed a deplorable character. Imagining myself trying to live within the culture soup of the aristocracy and in a human body, these thoughts come to mind. The life of the aristocracy, both women and men seems extremely boring. Genji sings and plays music and what else? How does he even keep his beautiful body fit? No sword training or something. So he’s beautiful, bored and lusty. The double standard for women and men in sexual behavior is alive and totally in place, it appears. As a young man of influence,it seems expected of him to have the nightly forays. What else would the court gossip about?

    As for the ladies, their life seems even more boring. Though they are supposed to be petal -like in their frailty and purity, they are humans and any amount of cultural influence cannot kill hormonal excitation, especially when it seems to be a major topic of conversation. So while it is totally improper to admit a stranger to your bed, can you imagine a fully equipped young woman, probably not having a homosexual outlet like the men, being unexpectedly visited by the heart throb of the country? Culture saying no, no, no, body saying yes, yes, yes? I think the author is chronicling this dilemma.

    Our author does have cultural norms win out however, as all of the ladies who have sex with Genji, which are all of them as far as I can tell except perhaps Utsusemi, are thereafter miserable.

    And when will the lady of the cicada shell shed it? The plot is getting so thick.

  3. samsacks9 June 24, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    There’s a disclaimer at the end of Twilight Beauty that reads: “I had passed over Genji’s trials and tribulations in silence, out of respect for his determined efforts to conceal them, and I have written of them now only because certain lords and ladies criticized my story for resembling fiction, wishing to know why even those who knew Genji best should have thought him perfect.” Someone suggested the possibility earlier, but I’m fairly persuaded that these chapters of bad behavior were written later on in the composition of the book, in a sort of flashback or prequel manner. If that is true, it suggests how hugely popular this book had become, how real Genji must have seemed to readers, and what a stir the youthful exploits would have created.

    • Dee Brown June 26, 2010 at 8:20 am #

      Thanks for that interesting bit of info, Sam. I can well appreciate the lords and ladies fascination with the Tale of Genji. Back in the early 60’s, I think, the first night time soap opera, Peyton Place, came to Boston. There was premarital sex going on, not show on the screen of course. My sisters, mother and I were glued to it each week.

  4. REG June 27, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    It’s fun to add up Genji’s offences, but even more interesting to see how they fit into one of the book’s great developing themes: the frailty of dignity. The high-status women are so often prey to any well-placed man who decides to lay seige, as well as to the machinations of their own ladies-in-waiting. The lords also fall into situations in which their lofty status suddenly becomes terribly vulnerable. Murasaki was a great ironist.

    Allan Bloom used to say that one of the best reasons to read old books is not to see how strange everything was back then, but to try to imagine how strange everything we now accept as normal would seem to, say, a 10th-century Japanese nobleman. A thought worth keeping in mind while reading Genji.


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