Essays in Idleness

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Cosimo, Inc., Jan 1, 2009 - Philosophy - 108 pages
YOSHIDA KENKO (1283-1352) was a Buddhist priest, a reclusive scholar and poet who had ties to the aristocracy of medieval Japan. Despite his links to the Imperial court, Kenko spent much time in seclusion and mused on Buddhist and Taoist teachings. His "Essays in Idleness" is a collection of his thoughts on his inner world and the world of Japanese life in the fourteenth century. He touched on topics as diverse as the benefits of the simple life ("There is indeed none but the complete hermit who leads a desirable life"), solitude ("I am happiest when I have nothing to distract me and I am completely alone"), lust ("What a weakly thing is this heart of ours"), the impermanence of this world ("Truly the beauty of life is its uncertainty"), and reading ("To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations--such is a pleasure beyond compare"). To enter Kenko's world is to enter a world of intimate observations, deceptively simple wisdom, and surprising wit.

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this particular translation is not my favourite one - it tries too hard to retain some olde worlde flavour, and misses out the wimsey and humour in the writing thereby..

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About the author (2009)

Born in London in 1883, George B. Sansom went on to serve in the great British diplomatist scholar tradition. As a youngster, he was educated at a lycee in France. Later he attended Giessen and Marburg universities. In the years following 1903, he held various posts in the consular and diplomatic service of Great Britain, from the early 1920s to 1940 serving as a key adviser in the British embassy in Tokyo.During this time, he amassed a great amount of knowledge about Japanese history and culture, and during and after World War II he acted in numerous advisory positions on Pacific affairs. Following the war he became Professor of Japanese studies at Columbia University and from 1949 to 1955 was director of the East Asian Institute. Sansom's dense but attractively written work on the great sweep of Japanese history influenced two generations of readers and students. In particular, his Japan: A Short Cultural History (1931) was the first text of choice for both the generation before and the generation after the war. His grand histories were the first in Western languages to draw heavily on the extensive historical literature in Japanese, and many of the questions he first raised more than a half century ago remain of critical interest today. Sansom's work continues to be of interest for the richness of writing and the quality of insight.

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