Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Essays in Idleness by The Tsurezuregusa of Kenko (Review 2)

I actually didn't know that I already reviewed this book once before here. I guess it makes sense, because I only heard about this book one, two years ago, when this blog was already up. But nevermind, I have new things to say!

Basically, after my first review, I lost the book. I don't know how, I don't know when but it was lost for a period of time. And then I found out I was going to Japan. So before I went, I was at Kinokuniya using up all those vouchers people gave me; and quite naturally, I bought this book.

I can't actually say that reading it in Japan is a different experience because honestly, I read it in my dorm room (does the fact that I was eating edamane at the same time count?). But I can say that this book is timeless. I wasn't bored with it even though it was a re-read.

In fact, I think this book was "made" for re-reads. It's essentially full of seemingly random short chapters, so you really could just flip to a random page and read a chapter (which can be as short as a paragraph really. I learnt that although the arrangement of the chapters seem random, they're actually really skillfully arranged. Sadly, my literature skills aren't at the level to discern and appreciate it without any help, although every now and then, I'd get the "woah, cool arrangement" feeling.

Being written so long ago, it's imbued with many Buddhist thoughts. This was because at that time, the only two religions in Japan were Shintoism and Buddhism. Plus, the Tsurezuregusa of Kenko is a Buddhist priest. But I would think that it's a pity to skip this book merely because of its religious influence. I think it's a really great way to appreciate the culture of that period and once you know that the religious aspect is there (and really, it's very obvious), you can always take a step back whenever you feel uncomfortable. The book isn't wholly spiritual after all. Kenko seems to be attached to the past and the secular world (he doesn't sound like a hermit) so plenty of, in fact the majority of, the passages are related to life in Japan then (or the past) rather than to Buddhism.

And let me reiterate again, that I really like the Donald Keene translation. It would be interesting to read it in Japanese but let's face it, my proficiency is no where near what is necessary and even my sensei has said that it's hard for the Japanese to understand it. I suppose I'll have to wait another year or two (so you might actually see a third review written in Japanese!)

No comments :

Post a Comment

I really do appreciate all comments, and I'll try my best to reply within 24 hours!