Life during wartime

I try not to cross-pimp my translation blog too much, but I think this will probably be of interest to people other than my fellow Taishō fiends: "The Tales of O-An".

「おあむ物語」 (O-an monogatari) has, as I understand it, the distinction of being the only record of the Sengoku period that even purports to be from a woman's perspective -- although, as you will see if you read it, it is framed by a male narrator. Exactly who the top-level author/narrator is is unclear, but the general consensus seems to be that it is one of O-An's grandchildren. Well, technically he'd be a grand-nephew.

It has ghosts, severed heads, armies, daring escapes, wardrobe malfunctions, and no shortage of complaints about the younger generation. I found it quite entertaining and decided to share it. (An annotated translation by Christopher T. NELSON and Kyoko SELDEN was apparently published in the Review of Japanese Culture and Society in 2004, but I haven't seen it.)

There is some debate over whether "O-An" is just a name, or a respectful title indicating that the narrator had become a Buddhist nun by the end of her life, which is why for e.g. Nolan and Selden's version is apparently titled "The Tale of an Old Nun". I've gone 100% neutral on the issue, since I don't intend to do a lick of research into the matter and I don't think it affects the story qua story either way.

The text gets a bit corrupt towards the end, but I've done my best. You can see a version of the original here.

Comments and criticism welcome, as usual. Feel free to e-mail me if your thoughts seem unsuited to the Blogger comment box.

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Great stuff! Of course, it reminded me instantly of Ugetsu (which I trust you've seen).


Actually, I haven't, but I'll have to check it out now..


Oh, the severed heads, right? I didn't think of that.

Anyway, it was nice to read this, Matt. (Weren't you planning to do a translation of the Hojōki at one point, or did I dream that? I can't find the reference in the archives.)

Incidentally, Blogger's display of comments in this entry screen seems do be more broken than usual.

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