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It is Camilla Send a noteboard - 17/01/2011 09:36:37 AM
And it's a great review of it. :)


Thank you :)

I was inspired to read it many years ago after seing Peter Greenaway's very loose "adaptation" of it (he mostly used her lists). I was very happy to find it was readily available (my edition is French, from Picquier). I've read it a few times since, or parts of it.


Adaptation? In film? How is that even remotely possible?

It's a perfect little window on the rather hermetic Japan of the Heian era, much more accessible (and much shorter!) than the Genji Monogatari.


Which I fully intend to read.

In history books (I'd warmly recommend George Samson's History of Japan in three volumes, btw, though they can be hard to find if not presently in print. They were written with people beginning Japanese Studies in mind and they're still pretty unique in the West from the fact Samson was fluent in ancient japanese and could go to the sources. The other history books are usually based of the works of more or less modern Japanese historians only), this is one of the most otherwordly cultural periods (even to Japanese themselves who are not terribly familiar with it, so some Japanese friend told me) but Sei Sh?nagon "re humanize" it, which was one of the major attractions of her book to me.


I looked them up. They'd cost me 40 pounds. It is tempting, but I am on a budget. It will probably be something I look into when I get a job, though.

Because I am a history nut I found the hints of court intrigue and power shifts fascinating, but they are always in the background.

Murasaki Shikibu has more of that, if you haven't jumped into the Tale of Genji yet. And if those sort of court intrigues fascinates you, you'd probably enjoy Samson's books a great deal.


I have read parts of it, but never the whole thing.

Her treatment and views of "commoners" are occasionally shocking to modern sensibilities.

Indeed, though in her defense the Heian court was like a bottled world and the residence of a living god. The court had this very complex, very refined and scholarly (mostly Chinese still) culture, and just outside people were virtually still living in the stone age and had extremely few contacts with the nobles and their servants.


Yes, I have no real problem understanding it. I was mainly thinking of the episode where she gives the illiterate, poor man a poem instead of money and then they all run giggling away when he asks how much it is. I even liked it, up until the giggling. But compared to the editor's dark words of warning, I found quite little like that. Obviously, being a lady at court, she was not going to go talk to the peasants. I had no problem with that.

If you're curious to get visual feel of the era and its way of life(and the costumes etc.), you might want to track down the movie Onmyoji. It's no masterpiece, but altogether quite fun, and Japanese movies set in this period are extremely rare, unlike movies set in the medieval period which abound. It follows the adventures of the Emperor's court magician (Taoist magic - very weird, and quite elegant and poetic) and is an heavily folklore-based Fantasy - adapted from novels adapted from a popular manga, but the period is well-rendered (with pretty good production value). It's rather refreshing and odd to see ancient Japan when it was still so heavily influenced by Taoism, before the Warrior culture arose, and without Zen buddhism, with those costumes, the ones referred to in the Pillow Book, quite different from the kimonos of the Shogunate centuries we're more used to.


I will, although it looks like it is only available in region 1 and region 3 dvds.

The edition I read had made quite a point of providing drawings of and exoplanations around the clothes of the period. I have no idea how they managed to move at all. But at the same time I am deeply envious.
*MySmiley*
structured procrastinator
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Very cool. I had heard of this book and forgotten. Thanks for the suggestion. *NM* - 17/01/2011 08:18:36 AM 758 Views
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