The Gossamer Years: The Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan

The Gossamer Years: The Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan

Michitsuna no Haha

Language: English

Pages: 210

ISBN: 0804802181

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Author note: Translated by Edward Seidensticker
Publish Year note: First published 974
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Written in the tenth century, the Kagero Nikki, translated here as The Gossamer Years, belongs to the same period as the celebrated Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. Like The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, The Gossamer Years is a journal kept by a noblewoman.

This frank autobiography diary reveals two tempestuous decades of the author's unhappy marriage and her growing indignation at rival wives and mistresses. To impetuous to be satisfied as a subsidiary wife, this beautiful noblewoman of the Heian dynasty protests the marriage system of her time in one of Japanese literature's earliest attempts to portray difficult elements of the predominant social hierarchy.

Very little is known of the author outside of what is related in her diary. Her name is unknown -- but she was related to the Lady Murasaki, author of The Tale of Genji, and to Sei Shonagon, author of The Pillow Book.

A classic work of early Japanese prose, The Gossamer Years offers a timeless and intimate glimpse into the culture of ancient Japan.

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his hands165 and presently came in. We talked of a great many things, and I asked if he remembered having seen me once years before,166 "Of course," he replied. "How should I have forgotten it-even though I have been so neglectful since." And as I thought of the days when I had known him as a child, I found myself unable to say anything lest my voice break. Apparently conscious of the tension, he too was silent for a time. Then, though he evidently misjudged the source of my emotion, he

flying because there was a fire in the general neighborhood, and I was hurt that he should ignore me now when the fire was next door. I asked the servants and guards whether anyone had told him of the disaster, and everyone I asked reported having done so. How very wretched of him, I thought. And then there was a knocking at the gate, and it was he, and I felt somewhat better. "I was shocked to hear the news from your men, and I am really very sorry that I did not get here earlier," he said. We

a note to you.'The cuckoo sings its sad song in the shadow of the white flower of lamentation.'152 What shall I do? May I call to apologize for my remissness?" "What could have brought forth this?" I answered. "My note was meant only to acknowledge your letter of yesterday.'The cuckoo, far from hiding in the shadow, has been singing its lament quite out in the open.'" I inked the verse out and wrote instead, in continuation of the first sentences,153 "It is all very strange." The Commissioner

austerity), folded formally (tatebumi) instead of being twisted or knotted like an ordinary social or romantic note, and attached to a split or frayed stick the precise nature of which is unclear but which possibly has religious connotations. 31. In the Yoshino district south of Nara. 32. Because Kaneie has moved? The house to which she now returns is presumably the one that was too close to him on page 7 I, and the one from which she moved on page 63. 33. Tokihime's? J┼Źganden's? 34. I.e.,

have preferred to refuse it. My women only became noisier. It consisted of but one verse: "Sad am I,'mid talk about the warbler. May not I too hear its voice?" The paper was rather unbecoming for such an occasion, I thought, and the handwriting was astonishingly bad. Having heard that he was a most accomplished penman, I wondered indeed whether he might not have had someone else write it. I was half-inclined not to answer, but my mother2 insisted that a letter from such a gentleman was not to

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