Author(s): Rivka Galchen
During the Heian period of ancient Japan (794-1185 AD), when Chinese was still the official language of power and politics, even privileged women of the imperial court were not allowed to learn Chinese and wrote instead in Japanese, using kana - an abbreviated and vernacular system of written characters. Writing in this subordinate script, they produced some of the greatest works of world literature, including Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji - often considered the first novel - and Sei Shonagon's sui generis, confessional Pillow Book. This personal essay by the acclaimed Rivka Galchen sets out from these ancient Japanese women writers in search of "the small" throughout the history of literature - from Emily Dickinson to Fyodor Dostoevsky, from Robert Walser to Marianne Moore - before returning to the Land of the Rising Sun and its contemporary boom of young female Japanese crime fiction writers.
RIVKA GALCHEN's 2008 first novel Atmospheric Disturbances and her 2014 story collection American Innovations were both New York Times Best Books of the Year. She received her MD from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "Conspicuously talented" (Time), Galchen lives in New York City.