Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Quotidian Pillow Book

"The Pillow Book"
Sei Shonagon, painted by Hisashi Otsuka

"On the day after a fierce autumn wind
everything moves one deeply.
The garden is in a pitiful state
with all the bamboo and lattice fences knocked over
and lying next to each other on the ground.
It is bad enough if the branches of one of
the great trees have been broken by the wind;
but it is a really painful surprise
to find that the tree itself has fallen down and is
now lying flat over the bush-clover and the valerians."

On my recent book blog,
I mentioned that
Ruth L. Ozeki's novel
My Year of Meats,
is filled with numerous references to
The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon.

Shonagon (c. 966 -1017) lived at the Japanese court during the Heian period and kept a journal -- her famous Pillow Book --

" . . . filled with odd facts, stories from the past, and all sorts of other things, often including the most trivial material. On the whole I concentrated on things and people that I found charming and splendid, my notes are also full of poems and observations on trees and plants, birds and insect. . . . it is written entirely for my own amusement, and I put things down exactly as they came to me"
(from The Pillow Book, emphasis added).

Most famous are her quirky, descriptive, insightful lists, such as Lovely Things, Hateful Things, & Things that make you feel nostalgic." One of my favorites is

Things That Pass by Rapidly:
A boat under full sail.
Age. Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter.

If you search google for images of Sei Shonagon,
this picture pops up a few times, but unfortunately
without any information on artist, title, or date

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