A book is an adventure!
It has been on my bedside table for several years now: “The tale of Genji” by Murasaki Shikibu. A very extensive work written between 1000 and 1008 in Japan and certainly belongs to the big world classics. I have to be ready for such a job. The mind open, my inquisitiveness sharp and my ability to empathize deeply.
John Irving made me decide around my 25th hang my pen for the time being in the willows. I first had to gain more life experience, I thought, I wanted to get close to what he was doing. “The world according to Carp”, I read it still every year. “We pray for Owen Meany”, set the standard for me
as far as the creation of a novel figure is concerned. Hotel New Hampshire taught me that the world in all its transience is full of humour.
I only felt grown up when I could laugh inwardly because of the fragility of existence. The Japanese Mono no aware might touch on this. It is, therefore, self-cultivation and the consequences of it. Meet a great writer and then decide to stop for a while. Although! I have remained to write short stories. That makes me very happy.
And what about poems? I do not write that. They exist suddenly. They originate from my mind but I do not have much to do with that myself. I don’t write them, my hand does. It is and remains a big subconscious event.
“The tale of Genji”, so. A bulky work of 1182 pages. It is at least 2 kilos heavy and me, I feel like I am ready for it. After the big introduction – a lot of information is needed in advance – I’m already up to page 13 and I am completely in it. I am especially looking forward to the 795 poems I get to read or rather have to absorb.
In the first chapter “The Paulownia Pavilion”, the mother of Genji dies. She is called “Haven” and is the intimate companion of Kiritsubo, the Emperor. Her title is Kiritsubono Kõi. The Emperor is impressed. Haven was his big beloved and although he could choose from different women, he stayed alone in his room.
On page eleven he murmurs: “Oh, I could only find a wizard to look for her so that at least I could find out where her sweet spirit went.”
“This verse comes from” The Song of Infinite Sadness and Regret “by Bai Juyi who lived from 772 to 846 in Chang China. About two hundred years before the time in which “The tale of Genji” takes place. “It reminds me of a song sung by Van Morrison. Nobody knows who wrote it, but the love is deep and the worries, sorrows and regrets are insurmountable. Is it mourning sinking into a deep depression? The latter seems to be the case. This is certainly when I mumble the last verse.
I’m drunk today and I’m rarely sober, A handsome rover from town to town. Oh but I am sick now and my days are numbered. Come all ye young men and lay me down”
Further on the singer sings:
And in Kilkenny it is reported. On marble stone there as black as ink. With gold and silver I did support her. But I’ll sing no more now till I get a drink.
If this is not about “the black hole”, about homesick for better times then I do not know.
I think Kiritsubo is also depressed. He cannot meet his obligations. He does not fancy female companionship and he sees only the black side of the fine arts. He worries about the education of his son Genji and does not really know how to proceed now. Regrets about the past concerns about the present and fear of the future; I wrote a poem at a very young age of which Paula Gomes, my then-literator, said: “With this poem, you really do not have to write anything to me.”
“You search for words.
For years of getting older.
Always vague and scared. “
yes, yes depressions. They are of all ages, all people and it happens to you wherever you are on the social ladder. They come and go like the wind. You can finally do nothing about it then make it happen to you.
Page 13 of “The Tale of Genji”, a two-kilo story that I attack as a great adventure. Not yet read a per cent of the 1180 page and not really exciting book. That still promises a lot. I promise you that I will continue to report on the challenge. I hope that it will become more happier here and there. You can also laugh with the literature. This I surely hope.