It is the year 1000 in imperial Japan. The emperor makes war, peace and economy, surrounded by lords and powerful and loyal princes. The empress makes culture and foments the legacy of future generations, surrounded by ladys and princesses of rancid lineage. One of them, Sei Shônagon, is preferred by the empress because of her delicate beauty and her wit, subtle, sharp and also innocent; in the quotations and spontaneous poems that mingle in their chatting and in the encounters, with folding screens in between (although not always), with the brave samurais. Sei writes each thing of each day in a book that she keeps in her pillow, as it is customary in her epoch. Sometimes it is only lists about what's beautiful, what's sad, about things that are amiable or not, or about funny things. Some other times, it is short stories full of wit, naiveté, and the epoch's shyness, according to which it was outrageous not to use at least five overlapping kimonos, and that the visiting gentlemen saw more than the kimono's sleeves come out from behind the folding screens. In this manner, one of the two books that next to the Genji Monogatari (Genji's romance, epic) will be a column of Japanese Literature, is written.
It is rich in its sensitivity for what's ephimerous, and in its affection for showing the soul's depths. It is written almost casually, as an intimate diary that no one will ever read, and that's why it is written losely and emotionally. Here there's a portrait of an epoch in which women of the Japanese imperial court had a place acknowledged by men, the emperor included; and in which they could leave their hallmark in a culture that is, in the west, thought of as ancient and of a high artistic and intellectual content. This book was made into a movie by a master of image, Peter Greenaway, in his first multimedia film. The heroine is a model that has a pillow book, but whose reality is very far from that of the imperial princess. Anyway, the movie is as recommendable as the book.