The Nobility of Failure

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Morris is known as a Heian scholar (The World of the Shining Prince and a translation of Sei Shônagon's Pillow Book), but this book deals with a very different world from that of the Genji Monogatari. This book deals with the facination of Japanese with heroes who died for failed causes. After a brief introduction, Morris has chapters dealing with 10 people, or groups of people: Yamato Takeru, Yorozu (6th. cent), Arima no Miko, Sugawara Michizane, Minamoto Yoshitsune, Kusunoki Masashige, Amakusa Shirô, Ôshio Heihachirô, Saigô Takamori, and the Kamikaze fighters.

Morris gives a biography of each person he deals with, discussing among other things what is actually known about the person and what is legend, then he discusses their place in Japanese cultural (broadly speaking) history. There are extensive notes of sources, which makes it useful for both historical and cultural studies, as well as enjoyable to read.

Book Information

Morris, Ivan. The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan, New American Library, 1975.

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