Sei Shōnagon

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

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In the tenth century, Japan was both physically and culturally isolated from the rest of the world. The Pillow Book recaptures this lost world with the diary of a young court lady. Sei Shōnagon was a contemporary of Murasaki Shikibu, who wrote the well-known novel The Tale of Genji. Unlike the latter's fictionalized view of the Heian-era court, Shōnagon's journal provides a lively miscellany of anecdotes, observations, and gossip, intended to be read in juicy bits and pieces.
This unique volume was first rendered into English in 1889. In 1928, Arthur Waley, a seminal figure in the Western studies of Japanese culture, undertook a translation. The distinguished scholar devised this abridged version of the text, re-creating in English the stylistic beauty of its prose and the vitality of its narrative. Waley's interpretation offers a fascinating glimpse of the artistic pursuits of the royal court and its constant round of rituals, festivals, and ceremonies.
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110 printed pages
Original publication
Publication year
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    b5226708365shared an impression3 years ago


    Abril Castillohas quoted8 months ago
    After a while it is announced that the sick woman is somewhat better. Hot water and other necessaries are brought along from the back of the house by a succession of young maids, who, tray in hand, cannot forbear to cast a hurried glance in the direction of the holy man. . . . At last, at the hour of the Monkey (4 p.m.), having reduced the possessing spirit to an abject condition, the priest dismisses it.

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