Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"The Tragic Love of Two Enemies" by Ihara Saikaku-

"The Tragic Love of Two Enemies" by Ihara Saikaku-井原 西鶴; (1680, 5 pages, translated by E. Powys Mathers)

The Reading Life Japanese Literature Project

Ihara Saikaku (1642 to 1693, Japan) is an important figure in the history and development of Japanese literature.    He is given credit for initiating a genre of Japanese literature that is still very popular, the literature of the "Floating World".   Basically this means stories about the pleasure quarters of Tokyo, about geishas, plays, tea house, restaurants, and prostitutes.    He opened up the way for Japanese writers to tell stories about real life, not  just courtly love affairs and epics about heroes.  

In the  tradition of the Samurai a young apprentice warrior was expected to serve the needs, including sexual, of his master.   There was no shame in this and just as in Sparta warriors often developed extreme bonds for each other.

"The Tragic Love of Two Enemies" is a short work that tells us a lot about the Samurai code.     As the story opens the Shogun of the province through one of his ministers has ordered a page, Senpatji Akanashi, to kill his courtier Shingokei Dizaki.    Senpatji asks why and he is told it is because the Shogun wants it done.    
Senpatji returned to his apartment depressed at having to kill Shingokei, who was one of his best friends. Nevertheless, he went to his friend's house that night, and after a short conversation, killed him, announcing afterward, "This is the command of my master." Shingokei's slaves even tried to seize the murderer, but Senpatji calmed them, saying, "I've acted upon my master's orders, and just as I must obey him, so you must obey him."
The widow of Shingokei is inconsolable.    The widow cannot obey her impulse to kill herself as she is pregnant.   In time she gives up her passions (her father was a distinguished Samurai) and moved far away and supported herself and her son with needle craft.       In time Senpatji displease the Shugun and he is exiled.      Fourteen years have gone by and by accident he meets the widow of the woman he killed.   At first the widow does not realize he is the killer of her husband.   I do not wish to tell more of this story as it is really quite touching.       There is a love story here but it is not between the killer and the widow.   It is between the killer and the teenage son of the man he killed at the orders of the shogun.    The boy feels no hatred toward the killer of his father as it was all dictated by the Samurai code of absolute obedience.

The story can be read online

Mel u


Anonymous said...

Great review as always Mel. I always enjoy a good samurai story.

What confuses me is the name senpatji,that doesn't sound Japanese to me because there is no tji in Japanese character

Mel u said...

bokunosekai-thanks very much for your comment-maybe the translator did not get the name correctly rendered-