One of My Pet Peeves is…: Sei Shonagon and Her Language


We all know too well that making a mistake makes us feel awkward and annoyed. For a change, why not think about failure from a different point of view?  Sei Shonagon, one of the most renowned Japanese women writers from the 11th century, wrote about pet peeves in her great classic prose, “Makura no Soshi (The Pillow Book)”, a thick volume of notes with as many as 300 chapters. OK. Here is what she says:



Annoying and helpless are the things like these:
You’ve finished writing a poem, or a reply, and only after have you sent out someone with it, you think that a couple of words should be changed.
You’ve finished sewing something in a hurry and you pulled out the needle in full satisfaction, then you notice that you forgot to make a knot at the end of the thread.


Arguably, at the age of 28, she started to serve as a lady-in-waiting to Empress Teishi, 18, much respected for her sophistication. The Pillow Book contains a variety of topics such as diary entries, character sketches and detailed record of upper-class Court life. Her language is varied but compressed, rapturous in adoration for Empress but still lyrical. The limpid beauty of her language marked by repetitiveness, which might be too banal and naïve for Western readers, gives the passages a stylistic rhythm and musicality that still resonate with modern Japanese readers. What do you think?


Tag: Dear Mistakes…
Mistakes are The Norm
Danger Keep Out
Trouble Is A Friend
Variations Sauvages
One of My Pet Peeves is… Sei Shonagon and Her Language