The language is beautiful and haunting sei shonagons writings were both wholly alien and disturbingly familiar. 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. She completed the pillow book in 1002, with the work consisting of observations of her time in court. In her journal, sei shonagon describes events that happened in her daily life, e. This 54page guide for the pillow book by sei shonagon includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 297 chapters, as well as several more indepth sections of expertwritten literary analysis. The pillow book is a book of observations and musings recorded by sei shonagon during her time as court lady to empress consort teishi during the 990s and early 11th century in heian japan. The pillow book of sei shonagon is one of the earliest examples of diary literature whose passages chronicle the events of the court calendar, the ceremonies and celebrations specific to teishis court, and the vignettes that provide brilliantly drawn glimpses into the. Sei shonagons pillow book makura no soshi is the private journal of a ladyinwaiting to the empress of japan written during the 990s. Illustrated by jasper deane and translated by ivan morris. While others may be more familiar with murasaki shikibus the tale of genji as an example of classic japanese literature of the time, i chose the pillow book instead i always lean towards bucking the trend and i was intrigued by what i had read of sei. It provides a perspective on imperial culture in all its luxury, privilege, and poetry and is considered a masterpiece of japanese literature.
Sei shonagon, the author of the pillow book, was born in 966 or 967, the daughter of kiyohara no motosuke. The pillow book of sei shonagon by ivan morris 9780231073370. As the light creeps over the hills, their outlines are dyed a faint red and wisps of purplish cloud trail over them. She is known as the author of the pillow book makura no soshi. A pillow book is an openended and spontaneous collection of fragments, and as such may include lists, observations, poems, short personal essays and diary entries. Shonagon 9661017 was a ladyinwaiting serving the japanese empress sadako in the peaceful heian era.
The story behind the pillow book is that when shonagon possible real name. She who completed the pillow book left behind her life within the imperial court, leaving without a blemish to her name. Specifically, sei was a gentlewoman in the service of the empress teishi, from roughly the year 993 until c. The pillow book was compiled after teishi gifted sei shonagon a bundle of paper pillow book probably refers to a diary kept at ones bedside, perhaps wanting sei to capture the flavor of court culture. The pillow book of sei shonagon is a timely reminder that no matter what else is happening, the here and now is often quite delightful. Sei shonagon was born in japan around the year 965 ce and served as a lady in waiting to empress sadako.
Her surname is not her actual name but refers to her role, or more likely the role of her. The pillow book has been the platform with which japanese women have had the opportunity to express their feminism agendas through writer she shonagon. In her pillow book, she gives an account of the things she saw and her feelings. The pillow book by sei shonagon and the tale of genji by murasaki shikibu. The pillow book of sei shonagon is a fascinating, detailed account of japanese court life in the eleventh century. Wrote during heian era japan over a years ago its author sei shonagon, as she was known at the imperial court, wrote numerous musings about her life, recorded events that happened at the palace and documented the everyday. The pillow book was written over a thousand years ago by sei shonagon, a ladyinwaiting to japans empress teishi. The pillow book, makura no soshi is a book of observations and musings recorded by sei shonagon during her time as court lady to empress consort. Its a sort of mishmash memoir gossip, reflections, lists, and personal recollections are all mingled together, with a light, poetic delicacy that still is striking today.
The pillow book of sei shonagon columbia university press. The work of shonagon consists of a collection of essays, anecdotes, poems, and descriptive passages that have little connection to one. Sei shonagon mostly tells us stories of her daily life, gossips about her peers, comments on fashion and the seasons. The pillow book is a diary composed by sei shonagon, a young woman who served in the imperial court at kyoto during japans heian period. Her majesty, who was residing in the empresss office, sat by the edge of the veranda while ukon no naishi played the flute for her. Sei shonagon, diarist, poet, and courtier whose witty, learned pillow book makura no soshi exhibits a brilliant and original japanese prose style and is a masterpiece of classical japanese literature. If letters did not exist, what dark depressions would come over one. Supersummary, a modern alternative to sparknotes and cliffsnotes, offers highquality study guides for challenging works of literature. The pillow book by sei shonagon was written in the 11th. The pillow book themes from litcharts the creators of.
A precursor of the genre zuihitsu random jottings the more literal meaning to proceed, or follow, with a brush, this literary form made its appearance under the title makura. The pillow book, makura no soshi is a book of observations and musings recorded by sei shonagon during her time as court lady to empress consort teishi during the 990s and early s in heian japan. Its opening section, which beginsharu wa akebono, or spring, dawn, is arguably the single most famous passage in japanese. The book is full of humorous observations okashi written in the style of a diary, an approach known as zuihitsustyle rambling of which the pillow book was the first and greatest example. The subtle interrogation of power in the pillow book. Here is the pillow book of sei shonagon from the folio society. Written by a lady of the court at the height of heian culture, this book enthralls with its lively gossip, witty observations, and subtle impressions. The pillow book is an extreme example of a work that has lived past its time, and attained the deathless status that writers dream of as they labour over their page or screen, transmuting their moment into momenttranscending language. The pillow book of sei shonagon a journal of sorts really is a collection of thoughts, impressions, lists and daily events of her life as a courtesan in the imperial palace. A common custom of the time period, courtiers used to keep notes or a diary in a wooden pillow with a drawer.
Sei shonagon became popular through her work the pillow book, a collection of lists, gossip, poetry, observations, complaints written during her time as court lady to empress consort teishi during the 990s and early 11th century in heian japan. The pillow book of sei shonagon was a product of a tenthcentury courtiers experiences in the palace of empress teishi. Originally, sei shonagon would have been considered an existence that was not recorded within the throne of heroes as a servant. The pillow book of sei shonagon is a fascinating look at japanese court culture during the 11th century heian period 794 to 1186. The pillow book by sei shonagon professional moron. Sei shonagon, like murasaki shikibu, was a ladyinwaiting to an empress at this time, too, but to the older. Buy the pillow book penguin classics translation by sei shonagon, meredith mckinney isbn. Sei shonagon was a lady of the japanese imperial court. The pillow book makura no soshi is a personalised account of life at the japanese court by sei shonagon which she completed c.
The pillow book is a classic of japanese literature, completed in c. The two greatest works of literature in japans heian period 7941185 were both penned by women. Seis 11th century blog is remarkable for the way in which it records the ins and outs of daily life in japan of the year, but really, the main appeal of the pillow book is that sei is a. The book might also have been intended to serve as a catalogue of images or topics for poets. Unfortunately, the pillow book is the only remaining text by sei shonagon, and her life after she left court in a. The pillow book of sei shonagon is an immensely detailed account of court life in eleventhcentury japan. The other ladies in attendance sat together, talking and laughing.
She is the author of the pillow book, makura no soshi. It is also the best source of information on japanese court life in the heian period 7941185. Unless you were the empress, in which case shed call it the most genius thing that had ever been written in the whole history of the world. The classic portrayal of court life in tenthcentury japan written by the court gentlewoman sei shonagon, ostensibly for her own amusement, the pillow book offers a fascinating exploration of life among the nobility at the height of the heian period, describing the exquisite pleasures of a confined world in which poetry, love, fashion, and whim dominated, while harsh. Mst japanese people can recite the famous opening lines of the pillow book by sei shonagon. Sei herself was born in an outlying province where her father served as a governor. The pillow book classical literature which will not bore you. When one has been worrying about something and wants to tell a certain person about it, what a relief it is to put it all down in a.
The pillow book is a collection of reflections written by japanese gentlewoman sei shonagon as a kind of journal during the 990s and early s. The pillow book study guide from litcharts the creators. This thousandyearold classic is taught in japanese schools. And yes, she would have been deeply scornful of it. Sei shonagon 96610171025 was a japanese author and a court lady who served the empress consort teishi around the year. The pillow book, by sei shonagon the war on loneliness.
For march i will complete the set of what is for me that trinity of great heian women writers who lived in the same world, in a sense dominated by the mystique of the tanka, but were so different from one another by adding to the legendary poet ono no komachi, and the incomparable novelist murasaki shikibu, the essayist or diarist sei shonagon, author of the pillow book. Introduction sei shonagons pillow book makura no soshi is the private journal of a ladyinwaiting to the empress of japan written during the 990s. I call it a diary but the pillow book is so much more. Your pillow book would be a very different animal from shonagons. It is, more or less, the diary of the noblewoman sei shonagon, detailing her daily life in heiankyo. As a young girl in japan, nagikos father paints characters on her face, and her aunt reads to her from the pillow book, the diary of a 10thcentury ladyinwaiting. Though her world would have been familiar to her audience, which experienced her reflections only after they were unintentionally released, parts of the pillow book may seem opaque to 21stcentury. The pillowbook of sei shonagon translated by ivan morris. It was begun casually as a sort of private notebook diary and only. Not only when the moon shines, but on dark nights too, as the fireflies flit to and fro, and even. Sei shonagon s pillow book is one of the greatest japanese literary works. Sei shonagon 966circa 1025 was a japanese author and poet. Sei served her empress during the late heian period a particularly vibrant time for japanese arts and the beginning of japans feudal age and was a. Every now and then she provides a list of things, which are like.630 1528 407 677 732 1052 975 1102 1530 1274 357 562 969 1031 119 255 1275 1609 396 146 1388 1226 835 683 48 1234 1207 1469 723 356 1427 543 1138 1244 949 1307 149 819 1059 1129 1301 1317 278 207