Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Pillow Book #54

from Sei Shonagon
"It’s disgusting when a well-bred young man casually calls out the name of some low-ranking woman he’s visiting, in a way that reveals his intimacy with her. It’s much more impressive if he pretends not to have it quite right, even though in fact he knows her name perfectly well. If he’s visiting the apartments of women in palace service, he should really enlist a grounds-man to call her – though of course this is not a good idea at night – and if it’s some other place then he should employ one of his retainers. After all, everyone will recognize him if it’s his own voice.

"However, there can be no objection if it’s someone inconsequential, or a young girl."

Sei Shonagon (965 to 1017) is one of the great figures in Japanese literature and a contemporary of Lady Murasaki, though the two served in rival clans. The Pillow Book is part diary, part lists, and a whole lot more. She will, for an undetermined space of time, serve as Liverputty's courtesan from Kyoto during the high point of the Heian Court period. Translated by Meredith McKinney.

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