Review: The Sarashina Diary by Lady Sarashina

With my heart pounding with excitement, I was able to read, right from the first chapter, the Tale of Genji, this tale that had confused me and made me impatient when I had read only a piece of it. With no one bothering me, I just lay down inside my curtains, and the feeling I had as I unrolled scroll after scroll was such that I would not have cared even if I had had a chance to become empress! I did nothing but read, and I was amazed to find that passages I had somehow naturally learned by heart came floating unbidden into my head.

The Sarashina Diary

Summary and Thoughts

A autobiography in which the anonymous writer intersperses personal reflections, anecdotes and lyrical poems with accounts of her travels and descriptions of the Japanese countryside. She illuminates her pilgrimages to temples and mystical dreams in exquisite prose, describing a journey that can be read as a metaphor for life itself.

– – Goodreads

This is probably one of the most unique reads I’ve experienced this year – a short record of a young woman’s life in the Heian period in Japan from adolescence through her 50s. Supported by a lengthy analysis preceding the text, this read is a magnificent introduction to classical Japanese literature, as Lady Sarashina is clearly an excellent writer, her prose beautiful and full of implicitly deep emotions. That being said, I do think that quite a few of her references escaped me in terms of geography and royal politics, despite the translators providing a helpful appendix of information (after reading their analysis, there was only so much information I could remember as I read), and her diary is unfortunately quite short, leaving so many questions about her life unanswered. Perhaps if Lady Sarashina extended this piece and provided more of her thoughts on her perspective on life, her family, and the country, then this would easily be a five star read. For now though, I am glad for this small taste, and would easily recommend it to others if only just to be exposed to classical Japanese literature.

Photo Courtesy of Goodreads

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Star Rating

3/5

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