The Pillow Book of SEI Shonagon: The Diary of a Courtesan in Tenth Century Japan
Take a firsthand journey into a time, society and world full of intrigue.In the tenth century, Japan stood physically and culturally isolated from the rest of the world. Sei Shonagon--a young courtesan of the Heian period--kept a diary, which provides a highly personal account of the intrigues, dalliances, quirks, and habits of Japan's late tenth-century elite. She was a contemporary and acquaintance of the well-known courtesan Murasaki Shikibu, author of the Japanese masterpiece The Tale of Genji. A perfect companion to that work, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon brings an added dimension to Murasaki's timeless and seminal novel and further illuminates Japanese court life in all its ritualistic glory. Through his elegant and readable abridged translation, Arthur Waley perfectly conveys Sei Shonagon's girlish temperament and quirky personality. In a place and time where poetry was as important as knowledge and beauty was highly revered, Sei Shonagon's private writings offer a charming, intimate glimpse into a world of innocence and pale beauty. A new introduction by respected Japanese literary scholar Dennis Washburn provides historical insight into Japanese culture, Sei Shonagon's world, and Waley's translation.
Arthur Waley (1889-1966) taught himself Chinese and Japanese after being appointed Assistant Keeper of Oriental Prints and Manuscripts at the British Museum to help catalog the paintings in the museum's collection. He went on to renown as one of the most respected translators of Asian classics into English of his time. His long list of translated works includes The Tale of Genji, Monkey (The Journey to the West), The Noh Plays of Japan and The Analects of Confucius. Dennis Washburn is Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Translating Mount Fuji: Modern Japanese Fiction and the Ethics of Identity and translator of Temple of the Wild Geese and Bamboo Dolls of Echizen.