New to Penguin Classics, these two Japanese texts are timeless reflections on Buddhism, nature and the value of being idle
Kenko was born around 1283 in Kyoto. He probably became a monk in his late twenties, and was also noted as a calligrapher. Today he is remembered for his wise and witty aphorisms, 'Essays in Idleness'. Chomei was born into a family of Shinto priests in around 1155, at at time when the stable world of the court was rapidly breaking up. He became an important though minor poet of his day, and at the age of fifty, withdrew from the world to become a tonsured monk. He died in around 1216. Meredith McKinney is a translator of Japanese literature, both contemporary and classical. She lived in Japan for twenty years and is currently a visitng fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra.
[Essays in Idleness is] a most delightful book, and one that has served as a model of Japanese style and taste since the 17th century. These cameo-like vignettes reflect the importance of the little, fleeting futile things, and each essay is Kenko himself * Asian Student *