The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Finally was able to start reading another Heian "diary" I got at Xmas, this one translated by Ivan Morris.* It's been a while since I've read any Heian stuff, and so far I just keep rereading Morris' introduction, enjoying what he says, and being reminded down to my bones that everything doesn't have to be written or even thought of the same damn way all the time.

"...sense of genre has always been fluid in Japanese literature...the lines of demarcation between novels, romance, story collection, autobiography, journal, memoir, notebook, and poetry collection were most tenuous...."

" daily record of events but a book in which the material has been deliberately selected and shaped to reveal certain significant aspects of a women's life...dates are rarely provided...there are often large gaps between the events described."

I'm especially interested in Morris' observations that a) the introductions to the poems become so involved and so long that they become narrative flow and include characterization, so that the poems themselves almost become secondary to their own introductions; and b) the poems tend to occur at moments of heightened emotion "as if mere prose were unable to bear the weight."

He also quotes Arthur Waley's idea that you can't translate Japanese poetry, really--all you can do is take the works out of it, like a watch, then spread them on a sheet of paper and hope the reader gets the "possibility" of the poem, the way a watchmaker would see the taken-apart gears and pieces and understand the "possibility" of a watch.

Morris also remarks that in Japanese, some of the sentences he's trying to translate run on for three or four pages, but so smoothly and easily that you're not at all confused or burdened, but feel that you're seeing a scroll being unrolled in front of you.

The trick, I suppose, is figuring out ways to do this kind of thing in American writing without confusing or losing or boring the reader. I'm kind of thinking in terms of the former GN, which I haven't at all figured out yet. I actually like the new beginning I have, but it's only a few pages and it starts with events near the end of the book, and it's only one very tiny block of text per page. I have no idea what to do after that, but I like the idea of not being bound by time, place, names, etc. It's just, you know, I would like other people to want to read it, so it can't just wander around Heian-ly forever. At least, I don't think it can. Hmm.

*As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams, Translated by Ivan Morris, Penguin 1971