The Sound of Raindrops
About a thousand years ago, at a time when literary fashion in the courts of northern Europe had not progressed much beyond the coarse and bloody exploits of Beowulf, in another court a Japanese lady made notes for a startlingly different kind of book. Instead of mead halls and swashbuckling warriors, Sei Shōnagon focused upon such delicate things as the exact colour of a silk robe, the sound of raindrops at night when one is expecting a lover, the accuracy of a quotation from a poem – upon trivia, in fact. Yet the book she assembled from these scraps of sensibility is by any standards a triumph, as a vivid portrait of a person and of an almost unimaginably civilized society. It is also an unexpected pleasure to read.