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This article is taken from PN Review 198, Volume 37 Number 4, February - March 2011.

The Pillow Book Jee Leong Koh
One day Lord Korechika, the Minister of the Centre, brought the Empress a bundle of notebooks. 'What shall we do with them?' Her Majesty asked me, 'The Emperor has already made arrangements for copying the “Records of the Historian”.'

'Let me make them into a pillow,' I said.

'Very well,' said Her Majesty. 'You may have them.'

I now had a vast quantity of paper at my disposal, and I set about filling the notebooks with odd facts, stories from the past, and all sorts of other things, often including the most trivial material. On the whole I concentrated on things and people that I found charming and splendid; my notes are also full of poems and observations on trees and plants, birds and insects. I was sure that when people saw my book they would say, 'It's even worse than I expected. Now one can really tell what she is like.' After all, it is written entirely for my own amusement and I put things down exactly as they came to me. How could my casual jottings possibly bear comparison with the many impressive books that exist in our time?

from The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, translated by Ivan Morris


1. I miss my bolster

I miss my bolster, the long pillow held between my legs and hugged to my chest from the time I was born to when I turned thirty-three.

I ...


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