The Life Of An Amourous Woman

Saikaku, Ihara

Published by New Directions, 1963
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New York. 1963. New Directions. 1st American Edition. Very Good In Slightly Worn Dustjacket. Translated from the Japanese & Edited by Ivan Morris. 405 pages. hardcover. keywords: Literature Translated Japan Asia. inventory # 6393. FROM THE PUBLISHER - Today regarded as one of the great fiction writers of Japan, Ihara Saikaku (1642-93) has only recently attained this recognition. Because he wrote of the lowest class in the Tokugawa world, the townsmen, who were rising in wealth and power but not in official status, and of the licensed ‘gay’ quarters of the great courtesans where these merchants were the equal of anyone, much of his fiction is devoted to money and sensuality. Only since World War II have his works been published in modern Japan without censorship and discovered by writers and critics in their full richness. Saikaku’s zest and fascination are with the whole of life, with people, with the way they live and think and with the strange things that happen to them. The title book of this collection—The Life of an Amorous Woman—is possibly Saikaku’s greatest novel and his most complete one in the modern sense. Told in the first person by an aging former beauty whose highly erotic nature was her constant undoing, it ranges over all of 17th-century Japanese life, as the lady successively is wife, court lady, courtesan, priest’s concubine, the mistress of a feudal lord, and streetwalker, to mention only a few of her roles. The characters are from all walks of life and are all believable. The same is true of the other selections from Saikaku’s prolific output, three of the ‘Five Women Who Chose Love,’ several of the ‘New Lessons from the Lives of Wealthy Men’ and of the ‘Reckonings that Carry Men Through the World.’ The editor-translator of the volume, Dr. Ivan Morris, has provided an introduction and notes, a bibliography and two essays that illuminate the topics so important in the period, ‘Money in Saikaku’s Time’ and ‘The Hierarchy of Courtesans.’ A project of the Unesco Translations Program, this selection was made and the translations were checked by a number of Japanese writers and scholars. IHARA SAIKAKU was born in Osaka in 1642, probably of a family of the rising merchant class of that city, Saikaku lived during Japan’s golden Genroku period and was a contemporary of Moliere and Defoe, with whom he had much in common. The first twenty-six years of his writing career were devoted entirely to poetry, particulary to the hai-kai, a form similar to the better-known haiku. He became famous for poetry marathons, in which he dictated haikai at enormous speed. In one of these he composed 23,500 verses in twenty-four hours and was nicknamed ‘The Old Man of the 20,000 Verses.’ He was then 38. Slightly afterwards his devoted wife died and he became a Buddhist monk. He then turned to prose fiction, which he wrote with the same energy and speed. He invented a new form called ukiyo-zoshi, a term allied to ukiyoe, the ‘floating world’ art of the period; and his prose works, which depicted with relish the real world as he saw it, were immediately popular. In one year, 1688, he published five full-length works. He died in 1693 at the age of 51. IVAN MORRIS was born in London and a British subject, Ivan Morris started his study of Oriental languages at Harvard, where he graduated in 1946. Later he was a student of Arthur Waley at the University of London, where he took a Ph.D. He has been an interpreter with the Occupation in Japan, on the Japanese programme of the BBC, in the Far Eastern Department of the British Foreign Office. He spent four further years in Japan on a grant and is currently Associate Professor at Columbia University, teaching Japanese history and literature. The author of Nationalism and the Right Wing in Japan (Oxford I960), he has published translations of contemporary novels by Mishima, Ooka and Osaragi, and he edited for Unesco the anthology, Modern Japanese Stories. . Very Good In Slightly Worn Dustjacket. Bookseller Inventory # 6393

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Life Of An Amourous Woman

Publisher: New Directions

Publication Date: 1963

Binding: hardcover

Edition: 1st Edition.

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