Japan Literature – The Era of Heian Part II

In the early years of the century. X is to be asked the origin of another very voluminous category of writings which, under the common title of monogatari (short story, history), include the most varied genre: novel, history, folklore, etc., many of which, especially those of this era, they are interested in the study of contemporary costumes. The oldest is Taketori Monogatari (History of the bamboo cutter), by an anonymous author, who in a simple style full of delicate imagination, and in a very pure language, narrates the cases that occurred in this land to a fairy sent to pay for a lack. The Ise Monogatari is roughly contemporary(Racconti d’Ise) which, in 125 separate chapters, narrates episodes, almost all gallant, in the life of Ariwara-no-Narihira (825-880), a famous courtier and poet. His imitation is the Yamato Monogatari (Tales of Yamato), written around 950 by an unknown author, whose chapters concern, however, different individuals. In the second half of the century. X belongs the Ochikubo Monogatari (History of the underground), also by an unknown author, which narrates the torture to which a girl of noble lineage is subjected by her stepmother, who keeps her locked in a cellar; it is important for the customs of the time. Another story of an evil stepmother, ending with her exemplary punishment, is also the Sumiyoshi Monogatari, which some place in the Kamakura era (1186-1332), together with Torikaebaya Monogatari, who, on the other hand, tells of the difficulties encountered by a father in the education of his two children, a boy, with feminine character and tendencies, and a female, which is the opposite, from which he continually exclaims: torikaeba ya! (Oh, I could exchange them!), Hence the title. At the end of the century X, certainly belongs to the Utsubo Monogatari (History of the cavity), a series of stories in which the imagination is freely mixed with real descriptions of the court life of the time, but in a way that recalls the Genji Monogatari, according to some critics they suppose a relationship of interdependence between the two, in the sense that the Utsuboprovided the model to Genji.

According to BEHEALTHYBYTOMORROW.COM, it is around 1000, under the emperor Ichijō (987-1011), that the literary civilization of this era reaches its apogee, and it is two ladies of the court, Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shōnagon, who give the country the two major masterpieces: the Genji Monogatari and the Makiura – no – S ō shi. With the first appears in the monogatari a real social novel, which, for the merits of language, style and conception, should be considered as the most notable representative of the category. The author’s purpose was to give a faithful picture of the court environment and society of the time, of which, with an artist’s brush, she paints all the weaknesses. Of equal excellence, but with a different character, is the Makura- no – S ō shi (Notes of the pillow), which inaugurates and brings to perfection a new literary genre called zuihitsu(lit. following the brush; the Japanese and the Chinese wrote with the brush) or miscellany, which later became very popular. These “Notes of the pillow” have a charm and a grace that we can still taste today, and in them the figure of Sei emerges in full light, presenting to the eye of the critic all the sides of his complex personality. Written without gravity or refinement of style, her twelve books, comprising 301 chapters show us an original spirit, a cheerful soul that is moved by the changing aspects of nature that arouses in her an infinity of delicate impressions, which amuses herself immensely to everything he sees, noting, with wit and good taste, the curious or lacking side, which now tells a story with pleasure in which someone has made a ridiculous figure; now he remembers a stinging stab that she hurled, with malicious art; now she enjoys making lists of places, festivals, seasons, mountains, rivers, cities, favorites, to have a poetic name or to be connected with some tradition or history, or things that seem desolating, detestable to her, irreconcilable with others, which cheer the soul: all said with the sincerity of a soul that lays bare in front of itself.

With the death of the famous minister Michinaga (1027) the power of the Fujiwara (v.), Which he had brought to its apogee by force of intrigue, begins to decline, while military families increasingly gain the upper hand over the effeminate nobility of court. At the same time, even the letters are on the way to decline. The political upheavals, the infighting, where the clash of weapons resounded throughout the country throughout the century. XII, divert souls from frivolous and worldly things, turning them to the consideration of human destinies, and polarize the attention of writers towards the events of the day, the facts of arms, history. On the other hand, for about two centuries, no history had appeared and the need was felt urgent; and since the national language had now reached great perfection, it was natural that it, and not the Chinese, should begin to be used in history. But, in the meantime, the previous literary masterpieces had created, with the taste of fine letters, a constant demand for romantic reading. Thus, from this double requirement, the new genus of gods arises at the end of the epochzasshi or historical miscellaneous, which stands between the historical novel and true history, and whose style is inspired by that of the monogatari. Literally the zasshi stand above the arid primitive chronicles and always give a palpitating picture of the subject treated. The first of them, the Eigwa Monogatari (History of splendors), by an uncertain author, although a tradition attributes it to the lady-in-waiting Akazome Emon (X-XI century), covers, in 40 books, the period of two centuries that goes from the reign of the emperor Uda (889-897) to 1092, which can make it refer to the end of the century. IX. It is, more than a story, a description of the splendors (hence the title) of the times in which Michinaga ruled absolute at court. Of a more virile tone and more historical character is theŌ – Kagami or the Great Mirror (history, both in China and in Japan, is gladly compared to a mirror), written by an unknown, in the first half of the century. XII, which embraces, in 8 volumes, the period 850-1025, and includes numerous biographies of statesmen and also a dissertation on the origin of religious holidays. Col Mizu – Kagami (Mirror of water), which deals with the national history from its origins to Emperor Nimmyō (834-850) and the Ima – Kagami (Mirror of the Present), which continues the Ō – Kagami until 1180, released both at the end of the epoch, and with the Masu – Kagami(Very clear mirror), released later, which spans the period 1184-1333, forms a complex known as Shi – kagami (The four mirrors). Among the works released at the end of the time, it is worth mentioning the Konjaku Monogatari (Ramonti of once upon a time) by Minamoto Takakuni (1004-1077), a collection of anecdotes of various kinds, Indian, Chinese and Japanese, in 31 books, written in the spoken language of the time, in a simple, unadorned, often clumsy style. For the content and the manner it should be considered a precursor of otogi – banashi, fairy tales and tales for the youth, of much later production.

Japan Literature - The Era of Heian 2