Essays in Idleness and Hôjôki

Essays in Idleness and Hôjôki Review

These two works on life's fleeting pleasures are by Buddhist monks from medieval Japan, but each shows a different world-view. In the short memoir Hojoki, Chomei recounts his decision to withdraw from worldly affairs and live as a hermit in a tiny hut in the mountains, contemplating the impermanence of human existence. Kenko, however, displays a fascination with more earthy matters in his collection of anecdotes, advice and observations. From ribald stories of drunken monks to aching nostalgia for the fading traditions of the Japanese court, Essays in Idleness is a constantly surprising work that ranges across the spectrum of human experience. Meredith McKinney's excellent new translation also includes notes and an introduction exploring the spiritual and historical background of the works. Chomei was born into a family of Shinto priests in around 1155, at at time when the stable world of the court was rapidly breaking up. He became an important though minor poet of his day, and at the age of fifty, withdrew from the world to become a tonsured monk. He died in around 1216. Kenko was born around 1283 in Kyoto.He probably became a monk in his late twenties, and was also noted as a calligrapher. Today he is remembered for his wise and witty aphorisms, 'Essays in Idleness'. Meredith McKinney, who has also translated Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book for Penguin Classics, is a translator of both contemporary and classical Japanese literature. She lived in Japan for twenty years and is currently a visitng fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra. "[Essays in Idleness is] a most delightful book, and one that has served as a model of Japanese style and taste since the 17th century. These cameo-like vignettes reflect the importance of the little, fleeting futile things, and each essay is Kenko himself".

Title:Essays in Idleness and Hôjôki
Edition Language:English

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    Essays in Idleness and Hôjôki Reviews

  • Edward

    Introduction & Notes, by Meredith McKinneyFurther ReadingNote on the Translation & Notes Kamo no Chōmei --Hōjōki Yoshida Kenkō --Essays in IdlenessMapTimeline of EmperorsNotes...

  • Justin Evans

    I haven't read all that much east Asian prose, but I'm starting to suspect that I might over-identify with the overlooked-sensitive-and-ironic-scholar who is unable to find a position in the bureaucra...

  • Florencia

    What a strange demented feeling it gives me when I realize that I have spent whole days before this inkstone, with nothing better to do, jotting down at random whatever nonsensical thoughts have enter...

  • Eadweard

    I had read Hojoki before but I read it again anyway, it's really short and touching. Essays in Idleness was good, it was lighter than what I expected, amusing stories, conversations he had with people...

  • Charles  Beauregard

    Really enjoyable and pleasant. A few simple stories stuck with me and I think they are the most universal in humanity, rather than epic tales such as in religious books or fiction. Chomei living in th...

  • Smiley (aka umberto)

    3.75 starsThese two-prose works “Essays in Idleness” by Yoshida Kenko and “Hojoki” (Record of a Ten-foot-Square Hut) by Kamo no Chomei would, I think, be a delight to those seeking solace or i...

  • Anima

    Essay 75 "I wonder what feelings inspire a man to complain of "having nothing to do." I am happiest when I have nothing to distract me and I am completely alone. If a man conforms to society, his mind...

  • Kt

    4.5 stars. This was the full version of "A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees" by Kenko and contained a few more observations of humans and nature, it was still enjoyable the second time around. Hoj...

  • Brendan

    it is lovely to find yourself agreeing with someone who wrote in about 1330. I love how he says drinking is the worst vice of all and then goes on to describe how lovely it is to share sake with a goo...

  • Russell Fox

    In the reading group I have been part of this school year, I've been confronted with several classic works by ancient thinkers and authors that I'd never read before--Zhuang Zhi, for example, for Plot...