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A Tale Of False Fortunes

Set in Japan
at the end of the tenth century, A Tale of False Fortunes (Namamiko
monogatari) tells the story of Teishi, daughter of Fujiwara regent
Michitaka, who is married as a girl to the young Emperor Ichijo. When Michitaka
dies, power shifts within the family: the dowager Empress prefers his brothers
to his sons and the new regent Michinaga wants his own daughter to be empress.
He uses devious means (including false spirit mediums) to try to undermine
Teishi''s position, and lady-in-waiting Kureha and her lover, secretary of
police Yukikuni, are caught up in his machinations.

The frame of A Tale of False Fortunes is complex. Writing in 1965,
Enchi purports to be remembering a now lost manuscript of her father''s which
she saw forty years earlier, a manuscript which must have been a transcription
of an older book from the Kamakura or Muromachi period, or possibly a fictional
work by a not-so-famous literary scholar of the Tokugawa period. She mixes
extracts from and paraphrases of that imagined work with extracts from real
works (notably the eleventh century A Tale of Flowering Fortunes) and her own

I thought this (filtered through the additional barrier of translation into
English) might be difficult to follow, but it is actually accessible and
engaging. A Tale of False Fortunes works both as a novel and as an
introduction to a fascinating historical setting. Roger Thomas contributes a
useful introduction, but the only essential infrastructure is a family tree,
without which the relationships between the characters would be confusing.


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