The Life of an Amorous Woman: And Other Writings

The Life of an Amorous Woman: And Other Writings

The Life of an Amorous Woman: And Other Writings

The Life of an Amorous Woman: And Other Writings

Excerpt

Saikaku was, above all, a popular writer. His books were directed not at a small intellectual coterie but at the great townsman class of seventeenth-century Japan whose members, though literate, were usually far from erudite. It may, therefore, seem incongruous that a translation of Saikaku's selected works should be burdened with a lengthy introduction, notes, appendices and index. Yet these impedimenta are, unfortunately, necessary if the selections are to be fully comprehensible to the nonspecialist Western reader. Indeed, the remoteness of pre-Meiji culture makes Saikaku's writing obscure even to most Japanese people. Although Saikaku is no more distant in time than Daniel Defoe or Molière, both the life and the literary language of Japan have changed so greatly since the seventeenth century that few educated Japanese can read the original works without the help of notes, commentaries and glosses.

In order not to mar the continuity of the text with commentaries and footnotes, all explanatory material has been placed at the beginning and at the end of the book. The introduction is designed mainly for the reader who has no special knowledge of Japan or of Japanese literature. The specialist is advised to omit the introduction, especially the first part (entitled "The Period"). Detailed information on the construction, sources and themes of the individual works translated in the present volume has been relegated to Appendix I. Appendices II and III provide factual details concerning two rather complex subjects that are important for an understanding of Saikaku's books, namely, money and the hierarchy of courtesans. The textual notes are numbered consecutively . . .

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