Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Book Review of The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love by Saikaku Ihara
Author: Saikaku Ihara
Publisher: Norton Company
Type of book: 1600s, Japan, love, floating world, realism, marriage
Year it was published: 1686?
(from Norton World Anthology Vol.D 590)
The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love is a worthy introduction. The novella is part of a collection of stories, Five Women Who loved Love, written in 1686 when Saikaku had reached his full stride. It should be remembered, though, that this is a writer for whom language is always a bravura performance. Translation, inevitably obscuring linguistic aspects of a text, cannot display the stylist's forte to best advantage. Saikaku's many other strengths, however, do emerge.
Although the story itself is interesting, there isn't much depth with the characters; Osen is a sweet and naive girl, the man who likes her is persistent, the grandmother who sets them up is manipulative and so forth. There is also generosity involved, and its interesting to notice that unlike Genji, there seems to be a somewhat monogamy for the characters.
Happiness doesn't last long.
I think this is primarily written from the girl's, Osen's, point of view. From what I could understand, Osen and the man meet, she rebuffs him a number of times, the man turns to "nanny" for help and she scares Osen into being with him. They, along with other couples? travel somewhere and so forth. The story itself is short, perhaps ten or eleven pages long.
Ihara Saikaku (井原 西鶴?, 1642 – September 9, 1693) was a Japanese poet and creator of the "floating world" genre of Japanese prose (ukiyo-zōshi)
Just like The Tale of Genji, this also had a strange timelessness to it, but I found the parts where two men are with Osen confusing and couldn't help but wonder if there was some kind of umm threesome involved or something of the kind. Overall an interesting story although due to culture or whatnot, I'm afraid that it didn't have much of an impact on me. Most interesting line is beginning: "Life short, love is long" (Vol. D 591)
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)