20 January 2012 The Tale of Genji is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, around the peak of the Heian period. It is sometimes called the world’s first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel still to be considered a classic. image: Ch. 15 (“Waste of Weeds”). Scene from the 12th century illustrated handscroll Genji Monogatari Emaki kept at the Tokugawa Art Museum.