Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings
This is one of those books that added a layer to my being. My admiration to Matsuo Bashō starts here.
Firstly, I think Sam Hamill is an excellent translator. Not only he translated the book, he provided a splendid preface to put things into perspective.
This collection contains two of Bashō's travelogues, and some of his Haikus.
Bashō lived in a war-torn feudal Japan. Travel, naturally, came with quite some danger in the path. His advanced age was not in his favour also. But neither the danger nor the fatigue dissuade Bashō. Instead, soldier's grave brought some haikus and there were Pine forests and Full-moons to wash away his fatigue.
Apart from Bashō exquisite inner-life, another important aspect that shined through the description is how culturally aware the people of Japan were regardless of their class. People used to memorize poems with their context, i.e. who, how, and in what situation wrote it. Prostitutes would find solace in poetry when no one is listening to them. I genuinely regret for not being born in that time and place.
A masterful translation of one of the most-loved classics of Japanese literature—part travelogue, part haiku collection, part account of spiritual awakening Bashō (1644–1694)—a great luminary of Asian literature who elevated the haiku to an art form of utter simplicity and intense spiritual beauty—is renowned in the West as the author of Narrow Road to the Interior, a travel diary of linked prose and haiku recounting his journey through the far northern provinces of Japan. This edition, part of the Shambhala Pocket Library series, features a masterful translation of this celebrated work. It also includes an insightful introduction by translator Sam Hamill detailing Bashō’s life and the art of haiku, three other important works by Bashō—Travelogue of Weather-Beaten Bones, The Knapsack Notebook, and Sarashina Travelogue—and two hundred and fifty of his finest haiku, making this the most complete single-volume collection of Bashō’s writings. The Shambhala Pocket Library is a collection of short, portable teachings from notable figures across religious traditions and classic texts. The covers in this series are rendered by Colorado artist Robert Spellman. The books in this collection distill the wisdom and heart of the work Shambhala Publications has published over 50 years into a compact format that is collectible, reader-friendly, and applicable to everyday life.