ASIA212Varley

Left alone with little to break the tedium of her

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Unformatted text preview: written by a woman identified only as the “mother of (Fujiwara no) Michitsuna.” Unlike the Tosa Diary, which was kept on a day-to-day basis and seems to present events as a fairly consistent and balanced chronology, The Gossamer Years is a sporadic and uneven account spread over some twenty-one years, from 954 to 974. The entries for some days are exceedingly detailed, but there are also long periods of time during which nothing at all is reported. This loose handling of the diary form (in fact, much of this diary was probably written toward the end of or even after the period it covers), combined with the intensely personal and subjective character of the writing, makes The Gossamer Years very much like a kind of autobiography or even an “I-novel”; and indeed the distinction between the diary and the fictional tale was often quite vague in Heian literature. Whereas the Tosa Diary is centered on a journey (a common theme in diaries and other personal accounts), The Gossamer Years deals with an equally popular theme, the romance. The mother of Michitsuna was married to Fujiwara no Kaneie (929–90), who eventually became imperial regent at court. Like most high-ranking Heian courtiers, Kaneie was not a faithful husband, and after an affectionate beginning with his wife (who bore him the boy Michitsuna), he began to neglect her for other women. Most of The Gossamer Years deals with the author’s distress and fretful resentment over the fact that her husband comes to call upon her with less and less frequency. Left alone with little to break the tedium of her sequestered existence (a fate all too common among Heian court ladies), the mother of Michitsuna is driven to a neurotic outpouring of self-pity and absorption with her own grievances to the exclusion of any consideration for the feelings of others. At the end of The Gossamer Years we find these forlorn remarks: The weather was fairly good for the rest of the year, with only a few snow flurries. . . . I thought...
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