Jutei and Basho by Esther Theiler

Esther Theiler’s new book Jutei and Basho is now available from Ginninderra Press.


Jutei was a woman who lived in Japan in the seventeenth century and had a relationship of some kind with the great haiku master, Matsuo Basho. This is an imaginative re-construction of the life of Jutei, intertwined with the historically known life of Basho and written in the spirit of haibun and haiku.

Basho’s haiku:

never think of yourself
as someone who did not count –
festival of the souls

(translated by Makoto Ueda) was written about Jutei after her death. Very little is known about her so the book is a fictional account. Esther wished to give Jutei a voice in the wealth of literature devoted to Matsuo Basho. The book is however based upon the historically known facts of Basho’s life (although some of those are contested). Esther has attempted to write in the spirit of haiku and haibun. There are thirty-six chapters, the number of verses in Basho’s favourite linked verse sequence, the kasen. Esther has written a kasen and used one verse to head each chapter. The chapters are short and evocative rather than wordy and detailed. There is an introduction and a small bibliography.

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