Thumbs up for The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon by Sei Shonagon, translated by Ivan Morris. Essays.
I’ve wanted to read this ever since reading about it in Ruth Ozeki’s My Year Of Meats. (And don’t ask me why I read that, given that it is i) modern, ii) American and iii) about wanting a baby: all things that I avoid in my books. But I liked it nevertheless.) Now that I’ve finished the Pillow Book, I can say I’m glad I kept it on my shelf all these years, waiting for me. Opening its pages is like stepping back into Heian-era Japan in the Emperor’s court, illuminated in vivid detail by that best of guides, the brilliant, poetic, promiscuous, big-headed and utterly endearing Sei Shonagon. A “Pillow Book” is not a novel, but a collection of word-pictures, bits of gossip, lists, complaints, and diary entries; and now I want to make my own. I loved this so much. If you want to be transported to another time and place, you will find no better.
“In the winter, when it is very cold and one lies buried under the bedclothes listening to one’s lover’s endearments, it is delightful to hear the booming of the temple gong, which seems to come from the bottom of a deep well. The first cry of the birds, whose beaks are still tucked under their wings, is also strange and muffled. Then one bird after another takes up the call. How pleasant it is to lie there listening as the sound becomes clearer and clearer!”
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