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Tales of Times Now Past: Sixty-Two Stories from a Medieval Japanese CollectionA translation of sixty-two key stories from the Konjaku Monogatari 1993 Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities / Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program
The stories, with sources in both traditional lore and contemporary gossip, cover an astonishing range—homiletic, sentimental, terrifying, practical-minded, humorous, ribald. Their topics include the life of the Buddha, descriptions of Heaven and Hell, feats of warriors, craftsmen, and musicians, unsuspected vice, virtue, and ingenuity, and the ways and wiles of bandits, ogres, and proverbially greedy provincial governors, to name just a few. Composed perhaps a century after the refined, allusive, aristocratic Tale of Genji, Konjaku represents a masculine outlook and comparatively plebeian social orientation, standing in piquant contrast to the earlier masterpiece. The unknown compiler was interested less in exploring psychological subtleties than in presenting vivid portraits of human foibles and eccentricities. The stories in the present selection have been chosen to provide an idea of the scope and structure of the book as a whole, and also for their appeal to the modern reader. And the translation is based on the premise that the most faithful rendering is also the liveliest.