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Love Songs from the Man Yoshu

written by Makoto Ooka

Kodansha International Ltd | ISBN 9784770026422

Paperback – 168 pages


Member’s price: $40.50
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It was the first golden age of Japanese civilization. Suddenly, in the eighth century, there appeared the great metropolis of Nara, its broad avenues lined with magnificent temples. Culture rushed in from Korea, from China, and, over the Silk Road, from as far away as Persia. And in this age Japanese literature found its first voice, a clear and powerful one, in the Man'yoshu. Literally "The Collection of the Thousand Leaves," this sweeping anthology, its poets ranging from emperors to beggars, is often considered the pinnacle of Japanese verse. In the Man'yoshu are found some of the most beautiful love poems in ancient world literature. Here are revealed the most private emotions of the men and women who thrived, and desired, and yearned thirteen hundred years ago. Here are the words, at times startlingly frank, at times exquisitely sophisticated, with which the lovers addressed each other as they moved through a world in which nature seemed animistically alive. Each enthrallment, each sorrow is delivered in a language that is fresh and immediate, filled with astonishingly rich natural imagery. The visual clarity is such that thirteen centuries seem to melt away, as if these poems had been written yesterday. Alongside each poem is an illustration by Miyata Masayuki, the renowned artist discovered by the great modern novelist Tanizaki. Powerfully and exquisitely erotic, the illustrations themselves constitute a major work of art. The result is a unique book in which the passions of eighth-century Japan are translated both into a vibrant contemporary English and a dazzling visual art.

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