World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600–1867.
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976. Hardcover, 6.5×9.5″ (17×23.5 cm), 606 + xv pages.
Condition: In d.j. with three slight tears and slight creasing, text and binding mint condition, signed by the author.
Original price: $22.95; this copy: $15 + shipping. Click for ordering info.
This is the first book issued of what would become Donald Keene’s magnum opus, a brilliant 3–4 volume history of all Japanese literature (the number depends on whether you count the two-volume Dawn to the West as one or two “books”). With this volume and the volume of Dawn to the West mentioned in the previous post, one has a nearly complete history of what we call “haiku” as it grew and matured in Japan. (The only thing missing would be the pre-history of the genre, in the linked poetry—classical renga—of the 1300s–1500s, which features in Prof. Keene’s final volume in the series, Seeds in the Heart.)
The opening six chapters of World Within Walls give the history of haikai from the late 15th century, when a more playful style of courtly renga began to emerge, to the full-blown art of Bashô, whom we know today as “the father of haiku”, but who was actually a master of haikai no renga in his own time. Then, after seven chapters devoted to fiction (3), drama (3), and waka poetry, Keene takes up haikai again with chapters titled “Buson and the Haikai Revival” and “Haikai of the Late Tokugawa Period”; the latter mainly deals with Issa. Further excursions into fiction and drama intervene between these and the final three chapters, devoted to “Waka of the Late Tokugawa Period”; “Comic Poetry” dealing with kyoka, the “mad verses” related to waka; and “Poetry and Prose in Chinese”—written by Japanese authors.
Despite its large size and page-count, this book is set in very readable type, with good margins, and forms probably the best single-volume introduction in English to the writers and writings of the Tokugawa Era, the era that includes Bashô, Chiyo, Buson, Issa, and others of the time with whom we may be familiar from the writings of Blyth, Henderson, and others. Thus, it makes a good introduction not only to the haikai poets of this time, but but to contemporary writers and works with which they would have been familiar.
I picked up this copy at a used book store, mainly because of the fact that Donald Keene had signed it for someone (name withheld to protect the guilty!), and it seemed fun to get such a copy. But now, with my earlier copy of the same book all marked up, when I come to part with one, it’s the signed copy that must go.
To Order: If you are interested in purchasing this copy of World Within Walls, e-mail me with name, postal address, and phone number.