Nobutaka

Fujiwara Nobutaka (950-1001) was Murasaki's husband. He was old enough to have been her father, and had at least three other wives prior to his marriage with Murasaki. Their courtship was a prickly one, as documented by poems in Murasaki's Collected Poems. Yet, after the marriage had taken place in 998, other poems seem to reflect a quiet, almost domestic, contentment.

   From those threads, I wove the details of their marriage as being a time when Murasaki attained a kind of emotional equilibrium—which then disintegrated when Nobutaka died suddenly of the plague (probably smallpox) in the unseasonably warm spring of 1001. Their daughter Katako was born in 999.

   Nobutaka had been a protégé of Emperor Kazan along with Murasaki's father, but had done rather better than Tametoki in his career. Lucrative appointments to the governorship of wealthy provinces had made him substantially better off materially, and Nobutaka also attained a rank that gave him access to the Courtier's Hall. This meant that he was allowed to enter the emperor's private residence within the palace grounds. I imagine that Murasaki would have found his descriptions of the inner workings of the court very useful in her Genji writing. At this point in her life she surely never dreamed that she would ever be able to see these things herself.

Sei Shônagon gives a hint about Nobutaka's flamboyant character in her Pillow Book, which I have Murasaki reading with some surprise in my tale.