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A Tale of False Fortunes

A Tale of False Fortunes

Enchi Fumiko
Translated by Roger K. Thomas
Copyright Date: 2000
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  • Book Info
    A Tale of False Fortunes
    Book Description:

    A Tale of False Fortunes is a masterful translation of Enchi Fumiko's (1905-1986) modern classic, Namamiko monogatari. Written in 1965, this prize-winning work of historical fiction presents an alternative account of an imperial love affair narrated in the eleventh-century romance A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (Eiga monogatari). Both stories are set in the Heian court of the emperor Ichijo (980-1011) and tell of the ill-fated love between the emperor and his first consort, Teishi, and of the political rivalries that threaten to divide them. While the earlier work can be viewed largely as a panegyric to the all-powerful regent Fujiwara no Michinaga, Enchi's account emphasizes Teishi's nobility and devotion to the emperor and celebrates her "moral victory" over the regent, who conspired to divert the emperor's attentions toward his own daughter, Shoshi. The narrative of A Tale of False Fortunes is built around a fictitious historical document, which is so well crafted that it was at first believed to be an actual document of the Heian period. Throughout Enchi's innovation and skill are evident as she alternates between modern and classical Japanese, interjecting her own commentary and extracts from A Tale of Flowering Fortunes, to impress upon the reader the authenticity of the tale presented within the novel.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6129-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[v])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vi]-[vii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)
    R. K. T.

    Enchi Fumiko (1905–1986), noted for her translation ofThe Tale of Genjiinto modern Japanese and for her encyclopedic knowledge of Japan’s classics, commented in her later years that “the women of the Heian aristocracy all seem to be cast in the same mold” and that she did “not particularly like them,” but that she was “rather fond of Fujiwara Teishi, the consort of Emperor Ichijō,” whom she found to be “vivid and fresh” (“Teidan,” 31). That her admiration of Teishi was genuine is amply evinced by her 1965 work,A Tale of False Fortunes (Namamiko monogatari),in which...

  4. Genealogy: Historical Figures in A Tale of False Fortunes
    (pp. 8-8)
  5. A Tale of False Fortunes

    • Prologue
      (pp. 9-15)

      When I was young, I knew Dr. Basil Hall Chamberlain by the name “Mr. Chamberlain.” Of course, I had not actually seen him, but I had become accustomed to hearing the name “Mr. Chamberlain” interspersed in my father’s conversations. My father, who had formerly studied philology under Dr. Chamberlain, always spoke of him casually as Mr. Chamberlain, in much the same fashion as university students even now refer to their professors behind their backs.

      I was probably six years old when my young ears committed Dr. Chamberlain’s name to memory. I am able to recall my exact age because that...

    • Chapter One
      (pp. 16-38)

      If my memory is not mistaken, the opening section ofA Tale of False Fortunesconsists largely of extracts from chapters of the first volume ofA Tale of Flowering Fortunesand chronicles the struggle for power in the regency after the death of Michinaga’s father, Fujiwara no Kaneie. In describing the refinement of the heroine’s life, it was no doubt necessary to portray as its background the tragedy of an aristocratic society caught in the internecine feuds of the age. Those descriptions are taken almost intact fromA Tale of Flowering Fortunes,and I, too, shall begin by recounting...

    • Chapter Two
      (pp. 39-59)

      Emperor Ichijō’s mother, Senshi, was Michitaka’s and Michinaga’s sister by the same mother. She was known as the Higashisanjō Empress, and later, after taking the tonsure, as the empress dowager. It was through her influence that her father Kaneie became head of the Fujiwara clan and had the way open to hold sway over the entire country as regent; thus neither of her brothers would be outdone by the other in carefully attending to her wishes. From her childhood, however, Senshi had had a particular fondness for the youngest, Michinaga, believing that he possessed talents superior to those of his...

    • Chapter Three
      (pp. 60-74)

      After Michinaga had assumed the regency and taken the reins of government, two new ladies-in-waiting were installed to attend the emperor. One was Genshi, the daughter of Akimitsu, the Horikawa minister of the right, and the other was Gishi, the daughter of Major Counselor Kinsue. Genshi was called Lady Hirohata and had her residence in the Shkōyōden Palace, while Gishi was quartered in the Kokiden Palace. Both were from reputable families and had aspired to court service, but as long as the former regent was in power they held back, fearing that they would be eclipsed by the empress’ influence,...

    • Chapter Four
      (pp. 75-98)

      On the twenty-fourth day of the fourth month of Chōtoku 2 (996), an imperial edict was issued banishing Palace Minister Korechika to Tsukushi [Kyushu] and Middle Counselor Takaie to Izumo. One year after the death of Michitaka, it was obvious the sun had set on the declining fortunes of the former regent’s household. The barrier that had existed between Michinaga and Korechika was related to the rivalry between the empress dowager and the empress for the affections of the emperor, and all parties concerned realized that the barrier was growing wider by the day. Impressed indelibly in the empress dowager’s...

    • Chapter Five
      (pp. 99-119)

      The description inA Tale of Flowering Fortunesimplies that it was at the urging of her grandfather, Takashina no Naritada, that Empress Teishi resolved to take the little princess and return to the imperial palace.

      Naritada mourned the loss of his daughter, Kishi, and the grandsons on whom he had so counted, Korechika and Takaie, were in exile. Though he was experiencing disappointment as only an old man can, he nevertheless remained resolute in his prayers for the revival of his family’s fortunes. He was disappointed that Empress Teishi’s first child was a princess, but took comfort in the...

    • Chapter Six
      (pp. 120-150)

      As Empress Consort Teishi continued to live at court with the emperor, once again her periods stopped and she became violently ill with morning sickness. She grew thin, and it was decided at the end of the third month that she should return to Imperial Steward Narimasa’s house. The emperor felt apprehensive about having her and his children stay there long and tried to arrange for them to stay at the Sanjō mansion belonging to the empress dowager, but he was unable to do so.

      Even in appointing stewards or priests to perform prayers, the emperor knew there would be...

    • Back Matter
      (pp. 151-155)