I’ve only read a few passages, but I’ve been enjoying the book from the beginning. This ancient Japanese literary piece, known as The Pillow Book was written by an imperial court gentlewoman named Sei Shonagon, a lady-in-waiting serving the empress sometime in the 10th-11th Century Heian Period in Japan. During this period, it was the era of cultural flourishing all over Japan. Sort of like the Renaissance Period in Europe where artists of various forms as well as scholars and philosophers promote a brand-new culture in their everyday life through the visual arts to the literary arts. Japan held the record of having one of the very earliest, if not the earliest novel ever written in history, starting with Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) written by another imperial court lady-in-waiting, Murasaki Shikibu.
What makes this book interesting is that this particular piece of written work may be described as history’s very first diary journal. Think of it as a very ancient “blog”, except it’s not on the web, but written on paper (or scrolls of parchment or something. I don’t know what the tools used for writing in ancient Japan). The novel/diary generally describes royal court life during the Heian Era, her vivid description of nature, and other personal ramblings and opinions about society in that era. The translation (made by Meredith McKinney) made it understandable for modern readers to read through as direct translations from ancient classical Japanese to ancient classical English does not work. In addition, reading through her first few entries also gave me an idea on how the author Sei Shonagon was like as a person. (for now, I considered her a prejudiced snob, but she was a servant of the royal court, so in some ways, was expected)
I call this a “pre-review” because I’m still currently reading it. But if you are a regular blogger or someone interested in blogging or if you simply keep a diary and write by hand, give this classic a try. Well, maybe another requirement is that you are open-minded and have high interests in Asian cultures, if not world culture in general. It gives us a world overview of how life was like in Heian era Japan.
Well, just a quick entry. Still working on other projects, but I’ll truly keep in touch. :)