Originally published May 12th, 2015
When I was just a sprout navigating the waters of an art diploma I came across the wonder and brilliance that was The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. Her sharp wit, insightful commentary and observations entertained me for many days and when I tearfully released the book to the library from whence it came I vowed that one day it would be mine. Truly, my joy knew no bounds upon that fateful Christmas morning when I held in my hands the edition represented here. My search was over! It was at last mine! But just as my joy was boundless that wintry morning, so too was my despair on reading. Where were the jokes? Where were the humorous lists? Where, oh reader, was the book? It had been eviscerated! A mere quarter of the length of my beloved original, the gormless translator had thoughtlessly eliminated nearly all of the entries and reminiscences which had made Shonagon’s original version the treasure of the literary world, a status it rightfully enjoyed. My heart ached seeing the spineless excuses for this act of desecration: “Shonagon’s reply…contains puns and ingenuities, which it would be tedious to explain.” (p40) Monstrous! Who among us does not know that the noblest calling of a translator is to present the original work as though through a pane of clearest glass? What vile being would even dream of shirking that purpose for the feckless excuse of mere tedium? Alas, my rage could not re-write one single line, or I would have filled the world with perfect translations of Sei Shonagon’s lovely, precious, spectacular book. My quest continues.