The Pillow Book

The Pillow Book

Book - 2006
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From short tales to lists of beautiful and ugly things, Sei Shonagon tells of a leisurely life in the court of tenth century Heian Japan. She can be lyrical, she can show her claws, but she is always fascinating.
Publisher: London : Penguin, 2006
ISBN: 9780140448061
Call Number: 952.01092 S457p 2006
Characteristics: xxxvi, 364 pages : illustrations, map ; 20 cm
Additional Contributors: McKinney, Meredith 1950-


From Library Staff

(Sei Shonagon, ca. 965–1035) "Written by the Court gentlewoman Sei Shonagon ostensibly for her own amusement, The Pillow Book is one of the greatest works of Japanese literature. A fascinating exploration of life amongst the nobility at the height of the idyllic Heian period, it describes th... Read More »

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dovfrede Apr 08, 2020

Sei Shōnagon, a woman in the Heian Japanese court, completed this journal by the turn of the 11th century.

It is so amusing! Thanks to the Penguin translator, Meredith McKinney, Sei is like that gossipy best friend of yours who isn't afraid to say what ticks her off, who she thinks is arrogant, or handsome, (or not!). There is also an eBook in our catalog translated by Arthur Waley, but having a woman translate this, as here, feels more authentic, and McKinney is so good at this text.

She also has great aesthetic conviction and a tremendous ability to express her tastes in a way that will encourage you to call art your own. She'll go off for quite a while on her opinions about the fabrics of the costume of a particular court member...or for that matter, her amusing nocturnal love tryst (related?).

I had never come across a historical character whose voice is so charming, personal, and familiar. A great read! Trip yourself out by supplementing your read with images from the period of the author by visiting the NY Met's pages:

Jul 03, 2019

Recommended by ML

Nov 01, 2018

Its a useful insight into life within the Japanese court of the 8th and 9th century but after a while it becomes a bit too petty as the author goes on and on about lower class people and how awful and under classed they are... it gets old. I struggled to get 200 pages read but I gave up, I have plenty of other classics to read in my life.


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