The Pillow Book
The Pillow Book (枕草子 Makura no Sōshi ) is a book of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shōnagon during her time as court lady to Empress Consort Teishi (定子) during the 990s and early 11th century in Heian Japan. The book was completed in the year 1002.
In it she included lists of all kinds, personal thoughts, interesting events in court, poetry and some opinions on her contemporaries. While it is mostly a personal work, Shōnagon's writing and poetic skill makes it interesting as a work of literature, and it is valuable as a historical document. Part of it was revealed to the Court by accident during Shōnagon's life. The book was first translated into English in 1889 by T. Purcell and W. G. Aston. Other notable English translations were by Arthur Waley in 1928, Ivan Morris in 1967, and Meredith McKinney in 2006. The Dog Pillow is an Edo period parody.
Other pillow books
More generally, a pillow book is a collection of notebooks or notes which have been collated to show a period of someone or something's life. In Japan such kind of idle notes are generally referred to the zuihitsu genre. Other major works from the same period include Kamo no Chōmei's Hōjōki and Yoshida Kenkō’s Tsurezuregusa. Zuihitsu rose to mainstream popularity in the Edo period, when it found a wide audience in the newly developed merchant classes. Furthermore, it gained a scholarly foothold, as Japanese classical scholars began customarily writing in the ‘’zuihitsu’’ style. Reputable authors from this movement include Motoori Norinaga, Yokoi Yayu, and Matsudaira Sadanobu.
The Narrow Road to the Interior by Japanese American poet Kimiko Hahn bridges to a western perspective. Eleanor Bron and Heather Mallick have both used this form to collect essays. Aidan Chambers' novel This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn is based on the concept of the pillow book. In the case of the fictional character Cordelia Kenn, it shows her life and thoughts so that her daughter can relive her past.
The Pillow Book is also the name of a series of three radio thrillers written by Robert Forrest and broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour Drama. These are detective stories with Sei Shōnagon as a principal character and feature many of her lists.
- Sei Shōnagon (2006). The Pillow Book. trans. Meredith McKinney. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-140-44806-3.
- Sei Shōnagon (1971). The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon. trans. Ivan Morris. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-140-44236-7. Originally published in 1967 by Columbia University Press.
- Sei Shōnagon (2011). The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, The Diary of a Courtesan in Tenth Century Japan. trans. Arthur Waley. Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-4-8053-110-0.
- Henitiuk, Valerie (2011). Worlding Sei Shônagon: The Pillow Book in Translation.. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. ISBN 9780776607283. http://www.press.uottawa.ca/book/worlding-sei-shonagon.
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