The Gossamer Years: Kagero Nikki: the Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan

The Gossamer Years: Kagero Nikki: the Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan

The Gossamer Years: Kagero Nikki: the Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan

The Gossamer Years: Kagero Nikki: the Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan

Synopsis

The 'Kagero Nikki, ' the classic of Japanese literature here translated as 'The Gossamer Years, ' belongs to the same era that produced the celebrated 'Tale of Genji' and 'The Pillow Book.'

Excerpt

An earlier version of this translation was finished in 1952 and published by the Asiatic Society of Japan in 1955. Shortly afterwards there was talk of republication by UNESCO, but the translation was thought by the potential sponsor to be excessively free. In the end he suggested that it be revised.

Feeling myself that the opening sentences in particular were a bit free, I undertook the revision, which was completed in 1960 and is offered herewith. Certain thoughts which came to me in the process of retranslation are appended to this introduction. They are reprinted, with slight revisions, from the Japan Quarterly of October-December 1960 (VII: 4). The reader who compares the revision with the earlier translation will find that changes are to be explained in three ways: by mistakes in that translation; by advances in textual criticism and particularly the appearance of the Iwanami edition in late 1957; and by a shift toward literalness in the principles governing the translation.

Though it will be referred to as a diary, the Kagerō Nikki is in fact a combined autobiography-diary covering twenty- one years in the life of a mid-Heian Fujiwara noblewoman known today as "the mother of Michitsuna." It is the record of her unhappy marriage to her kinsman, Fujiwara Kaneie, beginning in 954 with his first love letters, and ending in 974 with their very nearly complete estrangement. In the intervening years the author has occasion to record her indignation at successive revelations of rival wives and mistresses (Kaneie had some eight or nine of whom a record remains), and the diary is in a sense her protest against the marriage . . .

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