- Series: UNESCO Collection of Representative Literary Works
- Paperback: 403 pages
- Publisher: New Directions (January 17, 1969)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0811201872
- ISBN-13: 978-0811201872
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,110,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Life of an Amorous Woman and Other Writings (UNESCO Collection of Representative Literary Works) Paperback – January 17, 1969
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This text has four stories written by one of the great fictions writers of Japan. The primary story came from a collection of 12 works and relates the life of a court lady. This 402 page soft cover book begins with an introduction covering the period in Japan, the author, the work, the style, the illustrations and Saikaku’s place in literature. The stories consist of five women who chose love, The life of an amorous Woman, The Eternal storehouse of Japan, and reckonings that carry men through the world. There is also a very detailed appendix at the end of the book.
Even though I found this book interesting and informative the style of writing at times made it sometimes difficult to follow; nevertheless, if you are interested in Japanese literature this book is recognized by some as one of the classics by Ihara Saikaku.
Rating: 4 Stars. Joseph J. Truncale (Author: Zen Poetry Moments: Haiku and Senryu for special occasions)
While for me it was fine that it was an anthology, it would be frustrating to buy this book if you thought that you were going to get the entirety of The Life of an Amorous Woman.
Aside from the title work, the works excerpted include: Five Women Who Chose Love, The Eternal Storehouse of Japan, and Reckonings that Carry Men Through the World.
The book is bound with three detailed appendices: Sources, Money in Saikaku's Time and the Hierarchy of Courtesans.
Although I was not aware that this was an anthology when I bought it, I still enjoyed reading it. I had been refered to Saikaku as a counterpoint after having read The Pornographers by Nozaka. As the credited inventor of the "floating world" genre, much of Japanese literature with an adult theme owes a debt to Saikaku.
The notes were richly detailed. I probably would have preferred to either have them at the end of the section or under the page rather than at the end of the book. But that is a general complaint of mine-- I always like to know the detail, and do not enjoy flipping back and forth to the back of the book. The illustrations that were reproduced are well-chosen, and add quite a bit to the understanding of the text.
Recommended, if you have an interest in the subject area.
The first group of stories has been published elsewhere as "Five Women Who Loved Love," not the title used here. Using one story for each, it describes five women overcome by their passion, then overtaken by their fates. These have a moralizing tone - except for the one woman who converted a lover of men, they all end badly.
The next clutch of stories trace the life of the title's "Amorous Woman." The setting is a monastic hovel, where the now-old woman lives in retreat. Some young men bring her gifts, and ask for adivce in the ways of the world. She replies, starting with her own earliest stirrings for men at an improbably young age. The ancdotes wander through marriage, courtly life, prostitution, and work as a seamstress, teacher, and scribe. The general tone is amusing as she enters each new passion or strategem but ambiguous as a whole, tinged but not drenched with regret.
Finally, "The Eternal Storehouse" and "Reckonings" each present a few short tales. One of those short stories, "Daikoku" is itself an exchange of stories among travelers, a little like Chaucer. The final segment presents unrelated anecdotes, tied together by the common theme of resolving debts when entering the New Year. These are mostly stories of tricks used to avoid paying, or the trickier business getting payment anyway. Some, Dickens-like, just relate moments of the sadness of poverty.
Between the preface and the appendices, explanatory material weighs in around 175 of the 400 pages or so. It would have been a bit easier to chase the 800+ footnotes if they had been presented page by page instead of segregated in the back. Still I prefer the author's decision to let the text appear uninterrupted, except for a few enjoyable block prints of line drawings. The notes are not just filler, by the way. They really do help to fill in the cultural background that makes the stories make sense.
This is a very readable, very enjoyable set. The times, people, and moods all vary from story to story, but the collection as a whole gives interesting insight into Saikaku's times.