Columbia Anthology of Japanese Essays : Zuihitsu from the Tenth to the Twenty-first Century
A court lady of the Heian era, an early modern philologist, a Meiji-period novelist, and a physicist at Tokyo University. What do they have in common, besides being Japanese? They all wrote zuihitsu -- a uniquely Japanese literary genre encompassing features of the nonfiction or personal essay and miscellaneous musings. For sheer range of subject matter and breadth of perspective, the zuihitsu is unrivaled in the Japanese literary tradition, which may explain why few examples have been translated into English. Springing from a variety of social, artistic, political, and professional discourses, zuihitsu is an undeniably important literary form practiced by all types of people who reveal much about themselves, their identities, and the times in which they lived. Zuihitsu also contain a good deal of humor, which is often underrepresented in translations of "serious" Japanese writing.
This anthology presents a representative selection of more than one hundred zuihitsu from a range of historical periods written by close to fifty authors -- from well-known figures, such as Matsuo Basho, Natsume Soseki, and Koda Aya, to such writers as Tachibana Nankei and Dekune Tatsuro, whose names appear here for the first time in English.Writers speak on the experience of coming down with a cold, the aesthetics of tea, the physiology and psychology of laughter, the demands of old age, standards of morality, childrearing, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, sleeplessness, undergoing surgery, and training a parrot to say "thank you." Varying in length from paragraphs to pages, these works also provide moving descriptions of snowy landscapes, foggy London, Ueno Park's famous cherry blossoms, and the appeal of rainy vistas, and relate the joys and troubles of everyone from desperate samurai to filial children and ailing cats.