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Other titles in the Translations from the Asian Classics series:
Pillow Book of Sei Shonagonby Sei Shonagon
Synopses & Reviews
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon is an immensely detailed account of court life in eleventh-century Japan. Written at the height of Heian culture, it is a classic text of great literary beauty, full of lively anecdotes, humorous observations, and subtle impressions. Sei Shonagon was a contemporary and erstwhile rival of Lady Murasaki, whose novel, The Tale of Genji, fictionalized the court life that Lady Shonagon captures so vividly in her diary. The Pillow Book contains her reflections on royal and religious ceremonies, nature, pilgrimage, conversation, and poetry. Lady Shonagon shares character sketches and the things she both loves and loathes. Her style is so eloquent, her wit so sharp, even the briefest fragments enchant us. There is no better introduction to the daily preoccupations of the Heian upper class, and Ivan Morris's notes and contextualization enrich the material for scholars and general readers.
"One of the most delightful works of Japanese literature. The author, a near contemporary of Murasaki Shikibu, was a woman of remarkable talent and wit, and her book is perhaps the closest approach to high comedy in Japanese literature." Donald Keene
Sei Shonagon was a contemporary and erstwhile rival of Lady Murasaki, whose novel The Tale of Genji fictionalizes the court life Shonagon describes. The Pillow Book is a collection of anecdotes, memories of court and religious ceremonies, character sketches, lists of things the author enjoyed or loathed, places that interested her, diary entries, descriptions of nature, pilgrimages, conversations, poetry exchanges--indeed, almost everything that made up daily life for the upper classes in japan during the Heian period. Her style is so eloquent, her observations so skillfully chosen, and her wit so sharp that even the smallest detail she records can attract and hold the attention of any modern reader.
One of the great classics of Japanese literature, "The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon" is by far our most detailed source of factual material on life in eleventh-century Japan at the height of Heian culture.
About the Author
Ivan Morris was one of our most accomplished translators from the Japanese. He wrote widely on modern and ancient Japan, where he lived for four years, and translated numerous works from both classical and contemporary literature. He taught at Columbia University for many years.
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