BOOK REVIEW: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Title: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Author: Arthur Waley

Publisher: Tuttle Publishing

RRP: 22.95

ISBN: 9784805311080

Release Date: March 2011

Pages: 144


Japan in the 10th century stood physically and culturally isolated from the rest of the world. Inside this bubble, a subtle and beautiful world was in operation, and its inhabitants were tied to the moment, having no interest in the future and disdain for the past. In a small diary, a young courtesan of the Heian period gives her account of the Japanese courts of the day, providing perspective on a unique time in Japanese history. A contemporary of Murasaki Shikibu, the author of The Tale of Genji, Sei Sho-nagon's commentary brings an added dimension to that timeless and seminal work.

In a place and time where poetry was as important as knowledge and beauty was highly revered, Sei Shonagon's private writings give the reader a charming and intimate glimpse into a time of isolated innocence and pale beauty.

About the Author

Arthur Waley (1889-1966) taught himself Chinese and Japanese after being appointed Assistant Keeper of Oriental Prints and Manuscripts at the British Museum. He was one of the most respected translators of Asian classics into English of his time, with his translated works including The Tale of Genji, Monkey (The Journey to the West) , The Noh Plays of Japan and The Analects of Confucius.


Pillowbook has been translated into English from the Japanese manuscript about the life of a young courtesan during the 10th century. It was a real eye opener to the oppressive and sexist culture of the Japanese during this period in history. This book was as much an account of history in the Japanese culture as it was the diary of a courtesan.

Interesting read.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 8, 2011 at 9:54 PM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Post a Comment