|Electra (starlady) wrote,|
@ 2011-07-18 08:14 pm UTC
And in the end, my classmates and our professor and I had a pretty good time together; we were an odd group, but we were a group, particularly after we went drinking with some professors at Kandai as a group (long story) two weeks ago. I already miss them, though I don't miss getting up at 07:00 to get down to Doshisha on time.
# I really love classical Japanese. It gets something of a bad rep for being vague, but it's certainly no vaguer than, say, classical Latin, though I do find it interesting that between the three classical languages I know (classical Japanese, Latin, ancient Greek), they all have slightly different strengths and weaknesses. To wit, Greek has a deserved reputation as being both horribly subtle and exacting (case in point: the middle voice, the dual, the optative mood) (there's a reason that the greatest works of ancient European philosophy were written in Greek), while Latin was initially better suited for precision than it was for poetry (viz. the future perfect), and classical Japanese is…somewhere in the middle relatively speaking but on a different axis, I think. All the verbal prefixes/infixes/suffixes (there aren't really any actual infixes, but they can all be strung together for so long that some combinations start feeling like infixes after a while) and resulting piled-on associations and connotations give the prose a supple strength that's wonderful to read and wickedly difficult to translate.
# As previously mentioned, Kaguya-hime of Taketori monogatari is a complete bad-ass until she's brainwashed by her ostensible kinsmen, the moon-people, into being as affectless as they are. Three words: science fiction retelling.
# The Heike monogatari is hard-core. The death of Atsumori is also one of the slashiest pieces of literature I have read in a long time, right down to mutual crying before death (on a beach no less), and I was not the only one who picked up on this. Also, Taira no Kiyomori was a total bad-ass. Evil, but a bad-ass. It was constantly disconcerting to be reminded of The Iliad when reading an oral epic from in medieval Japan, eight hundred years ago: the events of the Iliad are roughly three thousand years old.
# The Genji monogatari is still amazing. We read most of the Aoi chapter, and I have to say…wow. I've read Genji in English, in the Tyler translation, which I would still recommend to people who want to read Genji, which everyone should because it's amazing, amazingly socially calibrated and psychologically real--kind of like Proust crossed with Austen crossed with James, except a thousand years ago in Heian-kyo, and it's also, despite the title, I think, a deeply--feminist is not the right word, but the female characters are very much the center of the novel, and one does catch hints of the author slipping in some very subtle criticisms of her society, or at least, of male behavior in her society--not so much in text but at the level of plot and device, but it's definitely there.
Unfortunately, I don't think any of the English translations (and the Tyler is far and away the single best version) are quite clued in to this aspect. The Aoi chapter (spoilers: she dies) is concerned, despite the name, principally with the Rokujô lady, whose liaison with Genji exacerbates her precarious social position and, it's clear, her own incipient mental instability. The creeping horror of Rokujô realizing that she can't even trust her own mind (in the full sense of the word, heart/mind, kokoro), that she is the spirit possessing Aoi, after pages and pages of obsessive rumination over the same confined psychological and emotional territory--it's a horror story, plain and simple, and Virginia Woolf, I think, would have recognized it. And this doesn't even add in the bodily horror of what happens to Aoi (it's very Rosemary's Baby, actually), who falls pregnant and says nothing directly after that and during her pregnancy is spirit-ridden, not just by Rokujô but by many random spirits who show up to use her as a mouthpiece for their grievances, and perpetually ill. A formerly spirited woman is reduced to a wreck of herself, so much that you can't tell whether she's alive or dead by looking at her; in their last interview, typically, Genji blathers on at her while she lies there semi-catatonic. It is a horror story, but Tyler's prose is too polished and urbane to do much more than barely hint at this.
# For reasons still not clear to me, our class decided that what the world needs is a Genji/Lord of the Rings fusion. I'm not going to disagree.
# Given that Genji is canonically called Shining Genji, and in light of his creepy creeper behavior, I'm having a really hard time not thinking of him as Sparklepire.
# Also, on some levels, the narrator of Genji is the Gossip Girl of her world. I kind of love that, actually. (Note: narrator ≠ author, though they obviously share somewhat similar social backgrounds.)