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From the Kagerō no nikki to the Genji monogatari

Du Kagerō no nikki au Genji monogatari
Jacqueline Pigeot

Abstracts

Murasaki Shikibu, author of the Genji monogatari, is generally acknowledged to have read the Kagerō Diary, the first autobiography written by a woman. In the course of writing the Genji, she seems to have adopted stylistic and narrative techniques from the Kagerō, including the incorporation of poetic quotations into a prose text, and “interior discourse.” Several Genji episodes, including Genji’s exile and the clash between the carriages of female rivals, have antecedents in the Kagerō Diary. By comparing the two texts, which are close in these respects, we can discern each writer’s unique vision and narrative technique.

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Editor’s note

Original release : Jacqueline Pigeot, « Du Kagerō no nikki au Genji monogatari », Cipango, Hors-série, 2008, 69-87.
Jacqueline Pigeot, « Du Kagerō no nikki au Genji monogatari », Cipango [En ligne], Hors-série | 2008, mis en ligne le 24 février 2012. URL : http://cipango.revues.org/592 ; DOI : 10.4000/cipango.592

Full text

  • 1 Translator’s note: Jacqueline Pigeot recently published a complete translation of Kagerō no nikki (...)

1The scholarly community now concurs that the Genji monogatari is indebted to the Kagerō no nikki 蜻蛉日記 (The Kagerō Diary), the first extant work in Japanese prose written by a woman.1

2The Kagerō author, known only as “the mother of Fujiwara no Michitsuna” 藤原道綱母, and Murasaki Shikibu are separated by a generation or two: the former was born in 936 and the latter around 970. They belonged to the same social class, the midranking nobility from which provincial governors (zuryō) were drawn. Their fathers both held this office; both were learned men descended from families of poets, and both undoubtedly educated their daughters and gave them access to their libraries.

3Michitsuna’s mother and Murasaki Shikibu were in contact with the high aristocracy to some extent. Murasaki Shikibu served the empress Shōshi 彰子 for many years. Although Michitsuna’s mother rarely came to court (perhaps only for poetry contests or the like), she was one of the wives of Fujiwara no Kaneie 藤原兼家 (929-990), a member of the prominent family then in power. Although Kaneie himself had not yet risen to power during the years of their marriage, The Kagerō Diary reveals that Michitsuna’s mother maintained closer relations with Kaneie’s brothers than he did himself, and that she also kept up with his sisters in the imperial harem. She thus knew a good many eminent people in society.

4The Genji monogatari and The Kagerō Diary depict, grosso modo, the same world and reflect the same social code and patterns of thinking; they are also written in the same language, one thought to have been routinely used by female aristocrats in the capital (these last two nouns being redundant).

5That said, the two works also reflect the very different personalities of their authors and their own world views—or the world view each offers the reader according to her purpose. To use a rather facile, shopworn term, the “world” (sekai) of their works differs in several respects. I will not devote much space to the subject; but, being perhaps influenced by the gender studies so in vogue in the United States and Japan, studies which regularly scrutinize The Kagerō Diary, I shall briefly discuss what distinguishes the work with respect to what it says, or shows, of women in general and in particular.

  • 2 Genji monogatari no sekai (Tōkyō: Tōkyō Daigaku Shuppan Kai, 1964), p. 40.

6Akiyama Ken isolates fifteen general statements in the Genji concerning women—their lot, their destiny, etc.—presented by and large in a sympathetic light.2 Murasaki Shikibu clearly gave serious thought to the status of women. By contrast, there is not a single general comment on this subject in The Kagerō Diary. The author is interested only in individuals, primarily herself. She ponders her own fate more than that of women in general; and although she faults Kaneie as an individual, she never perceives his acts as representative of the masculine sex. Rather, she points out that he is not like other men.

7None of the female characters in the Genji monogatari has the strong personality or independent nature of Michitsuna’s mother as she portrays herself in the Diary. She resists Kaneie, is not afraid to argue with him, defies him, and sometimes turns him away from her gate. In many episodes the reader sees that theirs is a relationship between equals, whether they act in opposition or in concert; such relationships do not occur between women and men in the Genji.

  • 3 Imuta Tsunehisa, “Kagerō no nikki no goi,” Issatsu no kōza Kagerō no nikki (Tōkyō: Yūseidō, 1981), (...)

8Michitsuna’s mother wished to lead her own life: she was not afraid, for example, to travel alone. Independent of her relationship with Kaneie, she had considerable contact with the larger world, with other women… and with other men. Might there be a causal relationship to the relative autonomy she enjoys with others? There is, in any case, much less keigo used in The Kagerō Diary than in the Genji.3

9Let us say in the interests of time that, while Murasaki Shikibu may be a feminist in theory, Michitsuna’s mother is a feminist in practice—but only on her own behalf. She displays no solidarity with women regarding their common state. On the contrary, she sometimes contrasts her lot with that of other women she considers more fortunate, and blames her unhappiness on Kaneie’s “outrageous” (mezurashi) nature.

10But to return to our subject: in what way does The Kagerō Diary influence or, more precisely, contribute to the Genji monogatari? Let us begin with a preliminary question: did Murasaki Shikibu read the Diary of Michitsuna’s mother?

  • 4 Ikeda Setsuko, “Kagerō no nikki shiron—Genji monogatari to no ruijiten to sōiten,” in Suzuki Hideo, (...)

11Despite the lack of conclusive evidence, the latter question is indisputable: if “everyone acknowledges that the Genji monogatari was influenced by the Kagerō nonikki,”4 then it is acknowledged that Murasaki Shikibu read it.

  • 5 See the kotobagaki to three poems from the personal collection of Michitsuna’s mother; one of the (...)

12There are several arguments in favor of this view. First, Murasaki Shikibu was a distant relative of Michitsuna’s mother: her maternal grandfather, Fujiwara no Tamenobu, was the brother of Tamemasa, who married a sister of the Kagerō author. Michitsuna’s mother had an excellent relationship with her brother-in-law: she lived with her sister while Tamemasa was making marital visits to her, and kept in contact with him well after the period covered by the Diary.5

13In addition, Murasaki Shikibu is known to have been in the service of Shōshi, the consort of the emperor Ichijō 一条天皇. Shōshi was a granddaughter of Kaneie, the husband of the author of the Diary.

  • 6 Sei Shōnagon cites a poem by Michitsuna’s mother in the Makura no sōshi. Makura no sōshi, Murasaki (...)

14Finally and most significantly, Michitsuna’s mother had a reputation as a poet6 and so could not have escaped Murasaki Shikibu’s notice. Four of her poems were included in the Shūishō 拾遺抄 (Kintō’s 公任 first collection, made prior to the compilation of the Shūishū 拾遺集). Murasaki Shikibu writes in her diary that the Shūishō was one of several anthologies given by Michinaga to his daughter Shōshi. Murasaki Shikibu surely read it; and she may have learned, via the kotobagaki 詞書 (introductory note) to one of Michitsuna’s mother’s poems, of her difficult relationship with Kaneie. How could she not have wished to take a closer look, to go to the source?

15It is highly likely that the Genji author, with so many connections to Michitsuna’s mother, managed somehow to acquire a copy of The Kagerō Diary, even though the work had not yet been widely circulated.

  • 7 Cf. Uemura Etsuko, “Genji monogatari to Kagerō no nikki,” in Murasaki Shikibu Gakkai, ed., Genji m (...)

16In what ways might Murasaki Shikibu have benefitted from reading the Diary? The Kagerō Diary is credited with making two substantial contributions to wabun 和文 literature. The first is the stylistic procedure of merging poetic quotations with prose in such a way that an uninformed reader may not notice the quotations.7 This would have been a novel departure from the standard procedure of setting off poetic quotations in the text; yet Murasaki Shikibu utilizes the innovation.

  • 8 Book 2, Tenroku 1 (970), Sixth Month. Kagerō no nikki, ed. Matsumura Seiichi et al., in Nihon kote (...)

17Before I give an example, the second and more important of the Kagerō contributions requires mention: its so-called “psychological analysis.” More specifically, this is the frequent incidence of interior monologue in the narrative prose; the monologues comprise either attempts to decode the real motives for a lover’s actions or words, or the discovery of one’s contradictory responses to events—contradictions that are explained if not always analyzed. Let us consider an illustrative passage in which the author of the Diary describes a visit from Kaneie. Their relations are quite strained at this point;8 he has spent the night with her.

The next morning, he says, “As there are things I simply must attend to…; I’ll come soon either tomorrow or the day after.” I do not think it is really true, yet it is natural for me to hope he might have a change of heart—the thought occurs to me—what if this were to be the last time I would ever see him—then, little by little, the number of days he does not come increases. So it is coming to pass as I thought; I become even sadder than ever [second set of italics added; arishi yori mo keni mono zo kanashiki].

  • 9 Chapter 21. Translation by Helen Craig McCullough, Tales of Ise (Stanford, CA: Stanford University (...)

18The concluding words are taken from a poem in the Ise monogatari:9

 忘るらむと/Wasuru-ran to/Because of doubt
 思ふ心の/Omohu kokoro no/Lest you again
 うたがひに/Utagahi ni/Put me from your thoughts,
 ありしよりけに/Arishi yori ke ni/I feel a sadness
ものぞ悲しき/Mono zo kanashiki/Unknown in the past.

19The process of inserting a few words from a waka into the prose passage is apparent here. It performs a double function, both heightening the expression and (for an informed reader) enriching it by suggesting or resonating the unquoted part of the poem. In this case the first three verses, expressing the speaker’s doubts about a lover’s faithfulness, are not quoted.

20The passage also provides an example of the other procedure mentioned above, one which appears frequently in the Diary and even more so in the Genji: a character’s analysis of another’s words in such a way that they are interpreted contrary to their superficial meaning. In this case Michitsuna’s mother attributes Kaneie’s promise to ulterior motives.

  • 10 Book 3, Tenroku 3 (972), Second Month. NKBZ 9:307; Arntzen, trans., p. 283. [I have translated the (...)

Another example:10

Just upon returning home, there was a letter from him, “My time has been taken up with a long abstinence and the affairs of my new office, so I have been out of touch. I’m thinking of coming to see you today, quite soon.” It was written very considerately. I sent a reply. Even though his letter seemed to indicate that he would come right away, That will be the day, I think as I pass the time musing on how I was gradually becoming someone he hardly knew. And I pay no heed to his words, with an utter detachment that dismays even myself.

  • 11 Cf. Takada Hirohiko, Genji monogatari no bungaku shi (Tōkyō: Tōkyō Daigaku shuppan kai, 2003), pp. (...)

21Here Michitsuna’s mother analyzes others and herself. She evaluates Kaneie’s discourse with regard to the present situation and, very likely, to past experience. Beneath the surface of his “considerate” words she reads her husband’s indifference, as in the previous passage. This time, however, she is mistaken: Kaneie comes to see her that very day. The disconnect between appearance and (assumed) reality is amplified: Michitsuna’s mother, tired of Kaneie’s erratic moods and emotional dishonesty, reaches a state of “detachment,” but her consciousness bifurcates as she observes with surprise her new detachment, a sign of the passage of time. Her detachment is then replaced by (or combined with) a very different emotion, dismay. Passages such as this enable us to speak of “introspection” in The Kagerō Diary.11

  • 12 See the translation by Earl Miner in Japanese Poetic Diaries (Berkeley CA: University of Californi (...)

22Decoding the words of others, and dividing the self into the “I” who feels and the “I” who watches itself feel: these two procedures are considered unprecedented in the history of Japanese narrative prose. They are certainly absent from the Tosa nikki, the only autobiographical work in wabun to predate The Kagerō Diary.12 They also appear to be missing from the fiction of the time, though, to be sure, only two such works survive (the Taketori monogatari and the Utsuho monogatari, at least with respect to its first part).

  • 13 To give two of many possible examples: in the “Akashi” chapter, the Akashi lady’s interpretations (...)

23Nevertheless this procedure is embryonic by comparison with the Genjimonogatari. Murasaki Shikibu both developed it substantially13 and made it more complex. There is no longer a unique perspective in the Genji, as in the autobiographical Kagerō—the narrator’s own, focused on others (principally Kaneie) and on herself—but instead the intersecting perspectives of each character toward others. The heroine-narrator’s linear discourse is succeeded by a polyphony of voices, indeed a cacophony when several characters’ interpretations or misunderstandings become intertwined.

24Despite the many basic differences between autobiograpy and novel, they share the characteristic of being stories that tell of events about people. In this respect, The Kagerō Diary could have furnished episodes and situations to the author of the Genji. Since at least the Edo period, commentators searching for Genji “sources” (which they believed were to be found in either contemporary events or earlier novels) have detected a few in the Diary. Posing the problem in terms of “sources” is, of course, overly naive; yet when the Genji is read with The Kagerō Diary in mind, there are indeed an impressive number of echoes. Without rereading the Genji beyond the “Suma” chapter, I found a good dozen. It could certainly be argued that many of the situations depicted by Michitsuna’s mother may have piqued Murasaki Shikibu’s imagination.

  • 14 For the Anna incident, see The Cambridge History of Japan, Volume 2: Heian Japan, ed. Donald H. Sh (...)

25For instance, since the time of Yotsutsuji Yoshinari’s 四辻善成 Kakai-shō 河海抄 (14th century) there has been a theory that the Anna Incident 安和の変 (969) was Murasaki Shikibu’s inspiration for the story of Genji’s exile at Suma. Without going into detail, the political intrigues of the time resulted in the exile of the minister of the left, Minamoto no Takaakira 源高明, who was accused of conspiracy and dismissed from office.14 The incident marked a milestone in the Fujiwara dominance of power. The Kagerō no nikki uses a dramatic tone to evoke the Anna Incident:

… an incident broke out in which several people were banished for who knows what terrible crime, and the whole world was convulsed by the upset, so our plans ended up in disarray.

  • 15 Book 2, Anna 2 (969), Third Month. NKBZ 9: 206-207; Arntzen, trans., pp. 171 and 173.

Around the twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth of the month, the minister of the left residing in the West Palace is banished. The whole capital is in an uproar; trying to see how things are, people rush to the West Palace… There is no one among those who know and are concerned with the affair, not to mention even someone like myself not connected with it at all, who does not dampen their sleeves for him.15

26Michitsuna’s mother mentions these events in her Diary because, as she writes shortly after the above passage, she feels compassion for the exiled man. After all, she was related to him and was on friendly terms with his wife Aimiya 愛宮, to whom she later sends a long, touching poem.

  • 16 Genji monogatari kenkyū josetsu (Tōkyō: Tōkyō Daigaku shuppan kai, 1959), pp. 630-634. For a more d (...)
  • 17 “Suma,” NKBZ 13: 176, note 8.

27Two questions now need to be addressed. Is Genji modelled on Takaakira, at least in this episode? Did Murasaki Shikibu draw on the Kagerō no nikki? Several possible models, including Takaakira, are proposed by Abe Akio, who does not consider him the optimum candidate.16 The theory that Murasaki Shikibu may have drawn on the Kagerō no nikki was, as noted earlier, proposed by medieval and premodern commentators. It is also apparently supported by the coeditors (including Abe Akio) of the Genji monogatari in the Nihon koten bungaku zenshū series, who note a similarity of expression in the two works: “the world was shaken [by this tragedy]” (Kagerō: ame no shita yusurite; Genji: yo yusurite).17

  • 18 “Suma,” NKBZ 13: 202; Seidensticker, trans., p. 242.
  • 19 See my Michiyuki-bun, pp. 281-312; also, in English, Norma Field, The Splendor of Longing in The T (...)

28I would like to consider these questions in another way. The idea of a unique model is thought to be virtually meaningless in the creative process of fiction. Murasaki Shikibu herself, moreover, seems to reject the idea: she explicitly states that what happened to Genji had happened to many others: “A serious crime! Why in China too exactly this sort of thing happens to every single person who has remarkable talents and stands out from the crowd.”18 For her, exile is the fate of extraordinary men; this brings to mind the narrative pattern known as the “wanderings of a noble person” (kishu ryūri tan 貴種流離譚), represented in Japan by figures from Susanoo to Michizane.19

  • 20 See Kannotō Akio, “Kagerō no nikki to monogatari bungaku,” Issatsu no kōza Kagerō no nikki, p. 250

29If the discredited idea of a unique model is ruled out, what might Murasaki Shikibu have taken from The Kagerō Diary? We have seen that she gives a grand and solemn air to the episode: exile strikes those with “remarkable talents.” The author of the Diary presents Takaakira in precisely the same way: never does she raise the possibility that he might have done something wrong. Similarly, while Murasaki Shikibu does not conceal Genji’s tsumi 罪 (especially his liaison with Fujitsubo) in some passages, she completely ignores them in others, as we have just seen. Moreover, Michitsuna’s mother responds with sorrow to Takaakira’s exile. Is this not also the sentiment Murasaki Shikibu assigns to her hero’s loved ones and which she demands from the reader? If the author of the Genji took something from this episode in The Kagerō Diary, I believe it was the idea of using a political event—the exile of a man who had become persona non grata at court—in a literary work written in wabun, a work created by a woman and aimed at the monogatari audience,20 as a dramatic means of arousing compassion. The episode could have stimulated the novelist in this way. Unlike Michitsuna’s mother, however, Murasaki Shikibu does not drain the event of its political dimensions, but instead highlights the rivalries among court factions. Knowing that her narrative would be read as fiction, she was paradoxically able to present a more candid description of reality.

  • 21 NKBZ 13: 181-182. [I have translated this passage according to René Sieffert’s interpretation in Le (...)

30There are echoes of The Kagerō Diary in another passage from the “Suma” chapter, that which describes Murasaki’s grief after Genji leaves for exile. The author’s description is achieved by invoking a universal experience: following a separation from the beloved, the discovery of an object that had belonged to that person revives the original sorrow.21

The Nijō lady [Murasaki] no longer rose from her bed and was sinking into a state of constant lethargy. […] The things he once used, a koto he had played, the fragrance from a robe he had left behind, all these she thought of as belonging to one who had recently departed this world. [italics added]

  • 22 Book 1, Kōhō 3 (966), Eighth Month (NKBZ 9: 183-184; Arntzen, trans., p. 135) and Book 2, Tenroku  (...)

This passage reminds me of several in the Kagerō that describe a similar experience. Two parallel episodes, occurring five years apart, provide one example.22 In both episodes, Kaneie seems to be neglecting Michitsuna’s mother; after he has not visited her for several days, she comes upon an object which he used daily. In the first passage, the object is the rice water he used to dress his hair, and in the second it is his morning medicine, which has slipped under their bed. Both discoveries remind the deserted woman of the passage of time; and on both occasions Michitsuna’s mother expresses her sadness by composing a poem on the subject.

  • 23 Book 1, Kōhō 1 (964), Eighth Month (NKBZ 9: 170; Arntzen, trans., p. 119) and Kōhō 2 (965), Sevent (...)

31But Murasaki Shikibu does not feature such commonplace objects in the above passage, instead mentioning a koto and a robe. Her scene is reminiscent of another two passages from the Kagerō in which these two objects appear in a similar context. In the first episode, the author has stayed with her beloved mother until her death in a mountain temple; she then returns to the home she had shared with her mother:23

Then, when in an absentminded sort of way, I set about putting in order the things that had been scattered about when we left for the temple, just looking at the things that she had used everyday from dawn to dusk, or the letters that she had written, nearly stopped my heart. At the time when she was weakening, on the day when she received the Buddhist precepts for nominal ordination, she had died just like that with the reverend priest’s stole laid over her. Now I found that stole among the other things. Thinking that I should really return it, I got up very early in the morning to write a note. The moment I set down on the paper, “This, your venerable stole,” my eyes clouded over with tears. . . [italics added]

The second episode occurs one year later:

  • 24 It was thought inauspicious to play the koto during a period of mourning.

So the commemoration ceremony was complete, and as usual I had nothing in particular to do. Without really intending to play, as I was dusting my koto, my fingers strayed to play a few notes and it struck me that indeed the period of mourning was over.24 Sadly, it had passed so quickly.

32The situation differs somewhat in the latter scene, since the koto belongs not to the deceased mother but rather to the narrator. Nevertheless, it is an object that brings to mind happy times now gone, when a now absent person was still alive.

33Did these passages inspire Murasaki Shikibu? I would like to think so. The similarity of the objects is striking—although the stole, marked by the context of illness, “becomes” a simple article of clothing in the Genji. Similar expressions occur (italicized in the translations), even if the words are different (Kagerō: akekure toritsukahishi mono no gu nadomo; Genji: motenarashitamahishi on-chōdo domo). Without going so far as to say that these episodes were deliberately borrowed and adapted by Murasaki Shikibu, I would note that a similar trait appears in the work of these two brilliant authors: the agents that awaken memories of a happy, now vanished past are not only seen objects contemplated with nostalgia. Whether it is a note struck from a koto in the Kagerō or the fragrance of a robe in the Genji, the sensory experience is both sudden and evanescent. Its emotional power is accentuated by the accidental nature of the sensation which brings the past back to life. Such minute details are the sign of a great writer: we are not very far from Proust.

34However, The Kagerō Diary passage concerns a mother, not a husband, and the absent person is dead rather than gone far away. Curiously, Murasaki Shikibu’s own apparent response to these objections is to brush them aside: Genji is not dead, but as we read earlier, “all these she [Murasaki] thought of as belonging to one who had recently departed this world.” At the conclusion of this passage, the author thus emphasizes that Murasaki’s separation from Genji is worse than death. With regard to the author of the Kagerō having lost a mother and not a husband, Murasaki Shikibu writes, not long after the passage quoted above, that Genji “had been both father and mother to her” (chichihaha ni mo narite).

35My analysis may not be convincing; skeptics may well find it an instructive example of commentarial abuse, a grasping at straws to support a thesis.

  • 25 “Aoi,” NKBZ 13: 14-20; Seidensticker, trans., pp. 159-63.
  • 26 I am grateful to Daniel Struve for reminding me of this.
  • 27 Kōhō 3 (966); NKBZ 9: 180-181; Arntzen, trans., pp. 129 and 131. According to Joshua Mostow, the t (...)

36Let us consider one last example of the different ways an analogous situation is treated in the Kagerō and the Genji, in order to see how these differences shed light on the specific nature of the two works. The Genji passage to be examined is the well known episode of the “competing carriages” (kuruma arasoi). At the time of the Kamo Festival (also called the Aoi or Heartvine Festival) or, more precisely, during the preliminary festival of the High Priestess’ purification, both Aoi and the Rokujō lady go to view the Priestess’ procession. Their carriages are caught up in the crush; Aoi’s men push the Rokujō lady’s carriage to the back of the viewing area, deeply humiliating her.25 The Ochikubo monogatari contains a similar scene.26 In this tenth-century novel, a dispute erupts over the location of viewing carriages during the Kamo Festival procession; it degenerates into exchanges of insults and a fight between the protagonists’ servants, to the great humiliation of one of the ladies present. Although Murasaki Shikibu may indeed have drawn on the Ochikubo monogatari in narrating her episode, the respective characters’ relationships differ considerably. The Ochikubo episode does not involve two female rivals but rather the young heroine and her stepmother. The major part of the story, moreover, is focused not on the women but on the men (the heroine’s lover versus the elderly uncle to whom the stepmother wishes to marry the heroine), and it is between these male characters that the confrontation takes place. The Ochikubo was written between 985 and 990; prior to this period, however, the author of the Kagerō wrote a scene that comes closer to the Genji episode in some respects.27

Around this time, the fourth month, I was going to watch the Kamo Festival and the one from that place was going out to see it too. Seeing that such was the case, I parked my carriage across from hers. Since there was not much to do while waiting, I draped some heartvine over a branch of tachibana oranges and sent this over to her:

  • 28 There are two sets of double meanings in the diarist’s verse: afu hi signifies both “day of meetin (...)

afuhi to ka/Though I heard we would
kikedomo yoso ni/be bound together with heartvine,
tachibana no/over there you stay, this citron’s…28

After quite some time, this arrived:

  • 29 For an analysis of this tan-renga, see Terada Sumie, Figures poétiques japonaises—La genèse de la (...)

kimi ga tsurasa wo/yellow flesh’s sharp tartness
kehu koso ha mire/today truly I see in you.29

One of my company remarked, “You are someone she must have hated for years, why does she only say ‘today’?” Returning home, when I told him about what happened, he said, “Well, at least, she didn’t say:

kuhi tsubushi tsubeki/yellow flesh that I would like
kokochi koso sure/to tear to pieces and eat up…

did she?” and so we thought it was most amusing.

  • 30 Michitsuna’s mother is also Kaneie’s wife, but he married her after Tokihime, and consistently tre (...)

37The situation is almost identical in both the Genji monogatari and the Diary: the principal wife (Tokihime in one case, Aoi in the other) and a rival (Michitsuna’s mother, the Rokujō lady30) have each come in her carriage to view the Festival procession. There is a confrontation with no final reconciliation. Furthermore, in both cases the story is told from the point of view of the woman who lacks precedence (Michitsuna’s mother, the Rokujō lady).

38How does Murasaki Shikibu treat this situation? First, she brilliantly develops the episode, dedicating several pages to it. The scene is expanded and the number of characters multiplied: there are detailed descriptions of the carriages, the manservants’ brawl, the procession, and the spectators. The author of the Ochikubo had already shown the way in this regard.

39Murasaki Shikibu does more than expand, however. While the purpose of the episode in both works is to depict a confrontation between two women, their roles differ. In the Kagerō the rivals face off—or, rather, one of them, Michitsuna’s mother, deliberately has her carriage halted opposite Tokihime’s; in the Genji the encounter happens by chance. Michitsuna’s mother provokes and challenges her rival, and Tokihime responds in a similarly unpleasant vein. Yet for all their latent aggression, the exchange has a playfulness which (as Kaneie observes) defuses the violence. By contrast, in the Genji (as in the Ochikubo) there is no direct confrontation or dialogue between the women. While both women express their feelings after the event in the Ochikubo passage, in the Genji they remain silent, prisoners of their thoughts. To be sure, a waka is composed in the Genji as in the Kagerō, but in place of the rivals’ witty exchange it is a poem “murmured” to herself by the humiliated Rokujō lady. All the violence of their discourse is transferred to the manservants, who seem to manipulate the two women as they hurl insults at one another. The women are depicted as utterly powerless.

  • 31 Seidensticker, trans., p. 163.
  • 32 In the Ochikubo both women express their feelings upon returning home: the stepmother complains to (...)

40The man’s response is also noteworthy. In the Kagerō, Michitsuna’s mother describes the scene to Kaneie, who takes her part (simply because she is there, perhaps); he makes jokes and mocks the lady who is absent. His complicity is expressed by his becoming an actor after the fact in the episode, when he suggests another link for the tan-renga 短連歌. In the Genji, the man learns what has happened not from one of the female protagonists (again, these silent women!), but from anonymous “people.” Genji sympathizes with both women and even appeals to the Rokujō lady, who avoids him and takes refuge in silence. Unlike Kaneie’s cheerful witticism, Genji’s final word is a querulous murmur (uchitsubuyaki): “Why cannot the two of them be a little less prickly?”31 The following day, to his shame, he goes out with yet another lady, Murasaki.32

41Parenthetically, while Genji resembles Kaneie in some respects (elegance, poetic talent, a taste for women, alternating attentiveness and boorish behavior), he is far more devious and perverse. He occasionally displays violence toward women: rare indeed is the novel with as many rape scenes. Genji is also much less amusing than Kaneie. Murasaki Shikibu insists on Genji’s admirable qualities in order to compensate for the disastrous effect his conduct has on the reader. Conversely, if the author of the Diary did not mercilessly enumerate Kaneie’s faults, we would find him a most seductive man. Narration and discourse do not go hand in hand in either work.

  • 33 The point of view is constantly changing in the Ochikubo; moreover, the heroine is not mentioned a (...)

42To return to the confrontation scene between the two women in their carriages, one point bears repetition. Although the story is told in both cases from the point of view of the woman of inferior marital status,33 the Kagerō author becomes the aggressor, takes her revenge, and quickly triumphs (thus earning Kaneie’s good will). In the Genji, however, the Rokujō lady’s humiliation and defeat are added to earlier frustrations, which are in turn intensified by Genji’s coldness when his escort does not salute her in the procession.

43In this episode, as more generally throughout the two works (though I may be making hasty generalizations), the atmosphere differs radically. There is a kind of freshness in the Kagerō: the women put their cards on the table, talking to each another (even when their exchanged words are rather sharp) and striving to see who is the wittier. Indeed, the final word of the episode is “amusing.” By contrast, the Genji scene takes place in a climate of exterior violence, both verbal and physical (the traded insults of the manservants, the pushing and shoving that damages the Rokujō lady’s carriage), while the two women remain paradoxically silent: the muffled nature of their confrontation gives an even more somber air to the scene. The world of Genji is dark, a word I am surprised to find myself using.

44In addition to the transformation worked by Murasaki Shikibu on the episode itself, its importance is enhanced by the place she gives it in the novel. The Kagerō episode is only an isolated scene: it has no effect on the relations between the two women, relations which continue to be coldly polite over the years. Murasaki Shikibu integrates the episode into a complex structure and makes it the impetus for a tragedy. The consequences are terrible: the furious Rokujō lady, acting in the form of a devastating “spirit” (ikiryō 生き霊), violently destroys her rival.

45The treatment of this episode in the Genji monogatari reveals a mastery of staging never reached by Michitsuna’s mother, as well as a propensity for dramatization in both senses of the word: events take on a dramatic air, and the consequences of each episode supply its drama. But this brings us to the difference between autobiography and novel: in the former case, the presence of an event in the narrative is justified by the simple fact that it took place, while in the latter it must be integrated into a framework or advance the story.

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Notes

1 Translator’s note: Jacqueline Pigeot recently published a complete translation of Kagerō no nikki into French, Mémoires d’une éphémère (Paris: Collège de France, Institut des Hautes Études japonaises, 2006). In this essay quotations from Kagerōno nikki are taken from the English translation by Sonja Arntzen, The Kagerō Diary (Ann Arbor MI: Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, 1997).

2 Genji monogatari no sekai (Tōkyō: Tōkyō Daigaku Shuppan Kai, 1964), p. 40.

3 Imuta Tsunehisa, “Kagerō no nikki no goi,” Issatsu no kōza Kagerō no nikki (Tōkyō: Yūseidō, 1981), p. 325.

4 Ikeda Setsuko, “Kagerō no nikki shiron—Genji monogatari to no ruijiten to sōiten,” in Suzuki Hideo, ed., Kotoba ga hiraku kodai bungaku shi (Tōkyō: Kasama Shoin, 1999), pp. 306-320.

5 See the kotobagaki to three poems from the personal collection of Michitsuna’s mother; one of the poems also appears in the Shūishū (poem 1339).

6 Sei Shōnagon cites a poem by Michitsuna’s mother in the Makura no sōshi. Makura no sōshi, Murasaki Shikibu nikki, ed. Ikeda Kikan et al., in Nihon koten bungaku taikei (hereafter NKBT), 19 (Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten, 1978), p. 317. Ivan Morris, trans., The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), 1:249.

7 Cf. Uemura Etsuko, “Genji monogatari to Kagerō no nikki,” in Murasaki Shikibu Gakkai, ed., Genji monogatari to joryū nikki kenkyū to shiryō (Tōkyō: Musashino Shoin, 1976). Uemura finds sixty-six quotations in the Kagerō, principally from Ise monogatari, Yamato monogatari, Kokinshū, Gosen shū, and Kokin-rokujō, as well as from Tsurayuki shū and other personal poetry collections.

8 Book 2, Tenroku 1 (970), Sixth Month. Kagerō no nikki, ed. Matsumura Seiichi et al., in Nihon koten bungaku zenshū (hereafter NKBZ), 9 (Tōkyō: Shōgakukan, 1973), p. 234. Arntzen, trans., p. 205.

9 Chapter 21. Translation by Helen Craig McCullough, Tales of Ise (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1968), p. 86.

10 Book 3, Tenroku 3 (972), Second Month. NKBZ 9:307; Arntzen, trans., p. 283. [I have translated the final sentence.—Trans.]

11 Cf. Takada Hirohiko, Genji monogatari no bungaku shi (Tōkyō: Tōkyō Daigaku shuppan kai, 2003), pp. 13-14.

12 See the translation by Earl Miner in Japanese Poetic Diaries (Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 1969), pp. 57-91. Possibly (or partially) autobiographical works that are forerunners of the Kagerō no nikki might include such personal poetry collections as the Ise shū 伊勢集. Its kotobagaki are relatively developed and display an early form of interior discourse, but they lack the compexity of the Kagerō passages.

13 To give two of many possible examples: in the “Akashi” chapter, the Akashi lady’s interpretations of Genji’s discourse and her deliberations on how to behave toward him (Genji monogatari, ed. Abe Akio et al., in NKBZ, 12-17 (1970-72), 13: 243ff.; Seidensticker, trans., p. 260); and Genji’s (self-deceptive) introspection at the beginning of the “E awase” chapter (NKBZ 13: 360-362; Seidensticker, trans., pp. 307-309).

14 For the Anna incident, see The Cambridge History of Japan, Volume 2: Heian Japan, ed. Donald H. Shively and William H. McCullough (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 63-64, and Arntzen, The Kagerō Diary, pp. 15-16. Kaneie’s position at this time remains controversial.

15 Book 2, Anna 2 (969), Third Month. NKBZ 9: 206-207; Arntzen, trans., pp. 171 and 173.

16 Genji monogatari kenkyū josetsu (Tōkyō: Tōkyō Daigaku shuppan kai, 1959), pp. 630-634. For a more detailed discussion of this question, see my Michiyuki-bun—Poétique de l’itinéraire dans la littérature du Japon ancien (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 1982), pp. 295-296.

17 “Suma,” NKBZ 13: 176, note 8.

18 “Suma,” NKBZ 13: 202; Seidensticker, trans., p. 242.

19 See my Michiyuki-bun, pp. 281-312; also, in English, Norma Field, The Splendor of Longing in The Tale of Genji (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987), pp. 33-45.

20 See Kannotō Akio, “Kagerō no nikki to monogatari bungaku,” Issatsu no kōza Kagerō no nikki, p. 250.

21 NKBZ 13: 181-182. [I have translated this passage according to René Sieffert’s interpretation in Le dit du Genji (Paris: Publications Orientalistes de France, 1988), 1: 261-262.—Trans.]

22 Book 1, Kōhō 3 (966), Eighth Month (NKBZ 9: 183-184; Arntzen, trans., p. 135) and Book 2, Tenroku 2 (971), Sixth Month (NKBZ 9: 259; Arntzen, trans., p. 231).

23 Book 1, Kōhō 1 (964), Eighth Month (NKBZ 9: 170; Arntzen, trans., p. 119) and Kōhō 2 (965), Seventh Month (pp. 172-173; Arntzen, trans., p. 121).

24 It was thought inauspicious to play the koto during a period of mourning.

25 “Aoi,” NKBZ 13: 14-20; Seidensticker, trans., pp. 159-63.

26 I am grateful to Daniel Struve for reminding me of this.

27 Kōhō 3 (966); NKBZ 9: 180-181; Arntzen, trans., pp. 129 and 131. According to Joshua Mostow, the three works intentionally took up the same situation, which may have been a feature of even earlier Japanese literature. “The Amorous Statesman and the Poetess: The Politics of Autobiography and the Kagerō Nikki,” Japan Forum (Oxford) 4:2 (October 1992), pp. 305-315. I am grateful to Michel Vieillard-Baron for bringing this article to my attention.

28 There are two sets of double meanings in the diarist’s verse: afu hi signifies both “day of meeting” and “heartvine,” and yoso ni tachi, “being standoffish,” overlaps with tachibana, a Japanese orange.

29 For an analysis of this tan-renga, see Terada Sumie, Figures poétiques japonaises—La genèse de la poésie en chaîne (Paris: Bibliothèque de l’Institut des Hautes Études japonaises, Collège de France, 2004), pp. 161-162.

30 Michitsuna’s mother is also Kaneie’s wife, but he married her after Tokihime, and consistently treats the latter with greater respect. The Rokujō lady is one of Genji’s mistresses.

31 Seidensticker, trans., p. 163.

32 In the Ochikubo both women express their feelings upon returning home: the stepmother complains to her husband and the compassionate heroine reproaches her lover for his violent behavior. The three texts differ completely in this respect.

33 The point of view is constantly changing in the Ochikubo; moreover, the heroine is not mentioned at all in the scene.

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References

Electronic reference

Jacqueline Pigeot, « From the Kagerō no nikki to the Genji monogatari », Cipango - French Journal of Japanese Studies [Online], 3 | 2014, Online since 12 October 2015, connection on 10 December 2016. URL : http://cjs.revues.org/687 ; DOI : 10.4000/cjs.687

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About the author

Jacqueline Pigeot

Professor emerita at the University of Paris Diderot

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