Friday, February 10, 2023

Recently, I wrote about a famous Japanese novel, Masks, written by Fumiko Enchi, a woman. That novel (1958) is a highly regarded classic. Japan. Few women in the fifties were recognized women authors; Enchi’s accomplishments were rare among them.

I looked into Enchi’s life (1905-1986). She was born into an affluent, highly cultured family. She was a sickly child, home-schooled by educated elders. She learned foreign languages and world classic literature. When she became a mature writer, Enchi was recognized for exploring the ideas of sexuality, gender, human identity, and spirituality.

In preparing to read Masks, I learned its many themes were based on an early masterpiece of Japanese literature, The Tale of the Jengi, written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady of the Japanese Court, early in the 11th Century. Since then, Jengi has been considered the world’s first novel. It’s a work of imaginative fiction, written in Japanese and containing both Japanese and Chinese poetry. At first, the work went ignored, because Japan’s official Court language was Chinese. Japanese was considered only a “woman’s language.”

I learned that before reading Masks, a must is to know The Tale of the Jengi. That ancient story reveals underlying themes in Masks that otherwise won’t be recognizable. I ordered the old story and on arrival its size surprised me. I thought a title containing the word “tale” suggested a short work, an assumption is from my childhood with Grimm and such. But Jengi, a hefty thousand pages, will take a long reading effort.

Yet again, another seemingly “short road” is transitioning into a long journey. Yet, this introduction to literature new to me will be a rich source of historical and cultural enlightenment.

Dear Friends: We explore with intrigue and often are delighted by where it leads. Diana

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