Sei Shonagon


"In the section Hateful Things, Sei Shonagon describes when "one has gone to bed and is about to doze off, a mosquito appears announcing himself in a reedy voice. One can actually feel the wind made by his wings, and one finds it hateful in the extreme" (Maynard 2202). After reading this quote you almost want to start scratching your skin and shake off the bugs!!"

Heather Daugherty, 1999

Sei Shonagon was a contemporary and erstwhile rival of Lady Murasaki, whose novel The Tale of Genji fictionalizes the court life Shonagon describes. The Pillow Book is a collection of anecdotes, memories of court and religious ceremonies, character sketches, lists of things the author enjoyed or loathed, places that interested her, diary entries, descriptions of nature, pilgrimages, conversations, poetry exchanges–indeed, almost everything that made up daily life for the upper classes in japan during the Heian period. Her style is so eloquent, her observations so skillfully chosen, and her wit so sharp that even the smallest detail she records can attract and hold the attention of any modern reader.

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon
Translated by Ivan Morris
Columbia University Press


5 thoughts on “Sei Shonagon

  1. Sei Shonagon… always a delight to read. And there’s Peter Greenaway’s “The Pillow Book”– all those wonderful, mannered, still-life shots with voice-overs from Sei Shonagon… One can only hope to keep apercus in one’s Moleskines a fraction as brilliant as Sei Shonagon…

  2. Hi! I´m from Argentina. I can´t found The Pillow Book, is there some site where I can download it or something like that??
    As you see my english is not very good, but please try to understand and reply this message I really want the book!
    Thank you very much!!

  3. Molly, you can buy Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book in bookstores, though I don’t know if there is a spanish translation (amazon has none, it seems). I don’t know if you can download it anywhere.

  4. The pillow book is a window to court life a thousand years ago, full of ceremony and festival and intrigue amongst the ladys in waiting in which case sei shonagon was a favourite of empress taishi, her rival aperson in court with equal footing is murasaki herself author of thew penultimate Tale of genji; This is japan mirroring the the tang court in china..

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