In Translation

In Translation

(Articles listed by issue)

“In Translation” showcases translations of a wide variety of Asian writers, and also underlines the vital role of the translator in this intercultural transmission.

KJ 76

Aesthetics of the Nonexistent – Mishima Yukio, translated by Andrew Rankin
I have no doubt that the poets who composed these words, which forgo any attempt at symbolism or romantic posturing, believed that the human soul was being lucidly expressed amid the serene purity of language.

KJ 74

Reflections on the Hagoromo Legend – Umewaka Yasunori, translated by Leanne Ogasawara
In China too, we find variations of the Hagoromo legend in almost every part of the country. While the oldest instance found in Japanese literature is said to be that in the Omi-no-kuni Fudoki (Stories of the Province of Omi) from the eighth century, a similar story is found in Chinese literature in the fourteenth volume of the Sou-shen chi, which was written some 400 years earlier.

KJ 73

A Swarm of Japanese Flies – Essay with translations of Kobayashi Issa and Masaoka Shiki,
by Aurelio Asiain
Given the importance of silence in traditional Japanese culture and the attention paid to the voices of insects, I am hardly surprised that in modern Japanese the word urusai —– noisy, annoying, bothersome”– is written with three characters whose literal meaning is “mayfly.”

The Persian Psalms of Iqbal – translated by Rasoul Sorkhabi
Iqbal lived the rest of his life mostly in Lahore, where he practiced law and taught at the Government College from which he himself had graduated. He widely read the works of Nietzsche, Henri Bergson and Goethe, but embraced Rumi, the Sufi poet, as his spiritual and intellectual guide. Rumi’s influence is easily seen in Iqbal’s poetry both in Urdu and Persian.

A Tale of the Evening Sea – Awa Naoko, translated by Toshiya Kamei
Once in a small seaside village, there was a girl who was skilled at needlework. Her name was Sae, but no one knew where she came from nor how old she was. One summer evening, many years ago, as the setting sun sparkled upon the sea as if golden-scaled fish were swarming, the girl came to the house of an old woman named Ito…

KJ 71

The Wrong Paradise – Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Srinjay Chakravarti
artwork by Amane Kaneko
This story, written in 1921, was a harbinger of the post-modern irreal imagination and one of the earliest instances of absurd fiction in any Asian language. It is taken from Tagore’s collection of microfictions Lipika (‘Scribings’) .

“In this heaven there is everything anyone could wish for, except leisure.
Here the men always exclaim, “Where’s the time to stand and stare?” The women tell each other, “See you later, there’s lots of work still left to do.” Everyone here says, “Time is invaluable.” Nobody here says, “Time is valueless.”
“I just can’t cope anymore!” rues anybody and everybody, and revels in this lament.”

KJ 70 (Kyoto Lives)

On Genji Monogatari: A Conversation with Setouchi Jakucho — Toyoshima Mizuho
I am now 86 years old, a very old woman, though I am the most active for my age in Japan. I started translating The Tale of Genji after turning seventy, though I had well prepared to start for many years by then.

KJ 72

Rainbow over Hell – Mori Tsuneyuki, translated by Sharon Fujimoto Johnson
How then did individual Japanese negotiate the mental terrain that led from glorious self-sacrifice to participating in the future? Mohri Tsuneyuki describes the pivotal moment in Arakaki’s psychological transformation below. The radical disjuncture that he experienced helps explain why so many Japanese think of 1945 as a fundamental turning point for their society yet find it hard to express the precise nature of that change of heart.

Troopers’ Inn – Takenishi Hiroko, translated Lawrence Rogers
“The maid, fuming, was at the sink washing dishes and talking to herself.
‘That fool officer! Why didn’t he let his men eat? We made a special effort for them! An officer who can’t feel for his men can’t be a decent leader!’
She went on vilifying the officer. Hisashi’s mother sensed the maid’s complaints were on the mark. She began to think that the officer had not even considered their feelings, let alone what his men felt, but then she reconsidered. No, she decided, she couldn’t expect it to not have been a trial for him as well. How much easier it would have been to have given the rice cakes to his men. Putting it in that light, she felt sorry for the officer as well, not just his men.”

KJ 69

The Barter – Ho Anh Thai, translated by Ho Anh Thai & Wayne Karlin, artwork by Gregory Myers
While I was studying in India, I had a German classmate with whom I also shared a room in the hostel. In a word, we were roommates.
The first day we met, he introduced himself with these words: “I am Heinrich, from Bavaria, located in the south of Germany.”
I told him I had read the work of the German poet Heinrich Heine, his namesake. He shrugged — nowadays, he said, everyone was writing poetry. I abandoned nineteenth century German literature and mentioned Heinrich Boll and Erich Maria Remarque. He looked at me suspiciously, as if I were trying to trap him into admitting some association with criminals wanted by Interpol.

KJ 68

Of Singing Clams & Soccer Camp: Searching for Japanese children’s literature in English translation – Avery Fischer Udagawa
Beyond fond memories, cherished children’s stories fill us with visions, questions, and ideas — thoughts that nudge us for years, their origins gradually fading from mind until, one day, we rediscover them, perhaps while seeking books for our own children. We may realize then that certain stories, and ways of telling them, have shaped our definition of a superb children’s book, even as they have become part of who we are.
The question of whether such books are translations rarely occurs to us…

While the Beans are Cooking – Awa Naoko, translated by Toshiya Kamei,
artwork by Amane Kaneko

The fox and the shrikes were not the only ones who wanted what Sankichi carried in his rucksack. A weasel pestered him, following him around, whenever he bought dried fish. Just before New Year’s, an ogre chased after him, wanting his black beans. As always, Sankichi heard someone call his name. When he turned around, he found a big ogre in leather clothes staring at him. Horrified, Sankichi tried to run away. Then the ogre said in an unexpectedly quiet voice, “I don’t want them for free. I’ll trade you one go of gingko berries for one go of black beans.”

KJ 67

Translating a Classic, with excerpts from The Pillow Book – Meredith McKinney

…when it came to translating The Pillow Book, the ironies of its classic status suddenly became acute. Sei Shônagon is in fact still very much alive and asserting herself, at the very centre of her work. Without the vividness of her personality, the words turn to dust. It was she herself I realized I must translate, quite as much as “the text.”

KJ 66

Nakahara Chuya and the Art of Translation
Essays, and translations of poems, by Christian Nagle and Ry Beville

By age thirty he would be dead, and in his lifetime publish just one volume of poems in a small print-run, yet today the young man from Yamaguchi with the haunting stare is widely seen as one of 20th century Japan’s greatest poets. Nakahara Chûya (1907-37) is not only a nationwide subject of classroom study, but a romantic fixture in the minds of countless readers.

Additional Nakahara Chuya poems in translation here.
[Online Web Excusive]

6 poems as jpegs, need to post as an additional page

Master Rumi: the path to poetry, love and enlightenment — Rasoul Sorkhabi
“…one day in the late autumn of 1244, Rumi was sitting by a pool along with his disciples and books. Shams (unknown to Rumi) came along, greeted him and sat down. Interrupting Rumi’s lecture, he pointed to the books and asked, “What are these?” Rumi replied, “This is some knowledge you wouldn’t understand.” Shams then threw all the books into the water and said, “And this is some knowledge you wouldn’t understand.”

KJ 65

A Mountain Village – Nishimura Isaku, translated by Joseph Cronin
Nishimura Isaku (1884-1963) was the founder of Bunka Gakuin, a school which he established in 1921 in the Surugadai area of Tokyo, with the help of the poet Yosano Akiko, her husband Tekkan, and the painter Ishii Hakutei. The school’s philosophy was one of freedom and equality. Many famous writers and painters taught there.

Prologue: On Power – Haniya Yutaka, translated with commentary by Manuel Yang
Haniya Yutaka’s lifework Shirei (Dead Spirits) stands as a major monument of postwar Japanese literature. It is, like Dostoievski’s Demons, an epic novel of revolutionary ideas, and, in an elegantly crystalline language of brooding metaphysics, does for the internecine political intrigues of underground leftwing radicals in interwar Japan what Dostoievski did for nineteenth-century Russian anarchists and nihilists. Jailed during World War II for his Communist activism, Haniya read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason in his cell and forged a dissenting politics of hybrid originality, which he defined as that of “Communist by day and anarchist by night.”

KJ 64 (Gender in Asia)

A Japanese Feminist in Occupied Shanghai – Tu Xiaohua, translated by Tan Ban Chong
“Tamura Toshiko (1884-1945) was the avant-garde editor of Nu Sheng [Women’s Voice] , the only women’s magazine published during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. Some regard Tamura as the most important Japanese female writer of the late Meiji and early Taisho periods. Her direction led Nu Sheng to have a profound influence on women in occupied China.”

Nakedness Is Just Another Way To Clothe Yourself – Lin Yichuan, translated by Andrea Lingenfelter
Puta – Elynia Mabanglo, translated by Pia Arboleda & Jorge Andrada, with commentary by Pia Arboleda

KJ 63

Chasing Folksongs – Miyamoto Tsuneichi, translated by Jeffrey Irish
One of Japan’s greatest ethnologists and one of her best kept secrets, Miyamoto Tsuneichi (1907-81) walked some 160,000 kilometers in search of the meaning of life in rural Japan. Born into a farming family on an island in Japan’s Inland Sea, Miyamoto was first an ethnologist, an observer and recorder who wrote more than fifty books and took some 100,000 photographs. …“Chasing Folksongs” was originally titled “Folksongs,” and appears as a chapter in one of Miyamoto’s most-read books, The Forgotten Japanese (Wasurerareta Nihonjin) , now in its ninth printing. Miyamoto has never before been translated into English. This excerpt is his long-overdue debut.
SEE review here

How the Ceremony Ends – Su Tong, translation and commentary by Josh Stenberg
“That was how the folklorist discovered that Eightpines had once had a custom of drawing ingots to designate a “man-ghost.” Immediately, he sensed that this was likely to be the most valuable finding of his research… It occurred to him that during his career as researcher, it was the first time he had encountered such an appalling custom. In the heat of the tavern stove, his thoughts began to turn feverishly; and finally it occurred to him that the ideal way to record the custom for posterity would be to recreate it. Turning to a white-haired old man, he asked, ‘Do you recall how the ceremony used to be performed?’”

KJ 62

Cloudburst – Fujisawa Shuhei, translation and commentary by Gary Alderson

“It didn’t occur to him that there are both happy and unhappy people in the world. Nor did it occur to him that those who are happy now may not always be happy, and that those who are now unhappy may find happiness again. The laughter had triggered only an intense hatred for the happy ones — a hatred that saturated his heart.”

This translation won the Distinguished Translation Award at the 2005 Shizuoka International Translation Competition.

KJ 61

Bicycle Diary 1903 – Natsume Soseki, translated by Damian Flanagan
“Having spent his adult life engaged in perhaps the most wide-ranging literary research ever conducted, with a head full of knowledge and insights from every corner of the globe, Soseki was ready to come out fighting. Taking even the most mundane subject — learning to ride a bicycle — Soseki was able to transform it into something of intense complexity, wit and symbolism, making reference to everything from The Tale of Heike to Chinese poems as his alter ego comically falls and bruises himself.”

Crow Home – Manosh Chowdhury, translated by Khademul Islam, artwork by Rimi Yang
There had been the usual crowd at Tienanmen Square. People with their different purposes, just like the crowds at Gulistan. Same as the restless hordes on Dhaka’s footpaths. Talking, incessantly talking, nonstop, with an obvious need to talk. The material world resides in the space created by words, a world identified by the names given it.

KJ 60

Generational Tensions – Translator Yu Young-nan reflects on her work & women writers in Korea
“My philosophy is maybe different from other translators in that I consider my reader to be someone who’s like me, interested in learning about foreign cultures and what makes people behave the way they do. I’d like to remove hindrances and change sentences to make them flow better in English. My motto is to make my translation as readable as possible. The substance is more important than the form.”

KJ 59

Revealing the Invisible: Manoa ‘s Frank Stewart & Patricia Matsueda, on Expanding Cultural Horizons – Ken Rodgers

“The Hawaiian word ‘mãnoa’ means “vast and deep,” and is a literal description of the lush green valley on O‘ahu that is home to a unique bi-annual publication of the same name. Mãnoa more than lives up to its derivation, through its vast and deep coverage of contemporary writing.”

Featuring the following translations, reprinted with kind permission:
“The Pepper Tree” – Ito Hiromi (fiction), translated by Shibata Hitomi
“A Poem for my Young Lover” – Du Tu Le, translated by Kevin Bowen & Nguyen Ba Chung
“Land of Snows” – Yidam Tsering, translated by Herbert J. Batt
“The Diabolical Sweetness of Pol Pot” – Soth Polin, translated by Jeremy Colvin & Lavonne Leong

KJ 58

Reflections of a Psychotherapy Go-between: An interview with Shinji Kazue – Stewart Wachs
“Like most clients who visit a clinic I thought at the beginning that personal problems brought there would be solved by the therapists. But while working there over the years I came to realize that the role of therapists is not solving problems for clients but helping them gain insight into themselves so they can analyze their problems and eventually find ways to solve them by themselves.”

KJ 57

Agreeing on Agreement – Uchida Tatsuru, translated by Kawasaki Takeshi
The introduction from Kodomo Wa Wakatte Kurenai (Children Don’t Understand Us), a collection of essays on the relationship between younger and older generations, published by Yosen-sha, Tokyo (September 2003).

KJ 56

They Who Render Anew – Avery Fischer
Interviews with contemporary literary translators Juliet Winters Carpenter, Janine Beichman, Sam Hamill, Leza Lowitz & Oketani Shogo, Elaine Gerbert, and Royall Tyler, exploring their diversified approaches to introducing Japanese writers to Western readers, and comparing various translations of well-known works.

Earlier issues of KJ featured precursors to In Translation, including the following essays, profiles, and translated works:

KJ 51

Dancing With Words: Red Pine’s Path into the Heart of Buddhism – Roy Hamric
“I tried to do things that I saw happening in Chinese — the Chinese language is a very telegraphic, terse language — time is almost irrelevant, their subject is also dispensed with. A line can be very ambiguous. So I started to play with that in English and still make sense.”

KJ 49

The Last Family – Murakami Ryu, translated by Ralph McCarthy
Plus: Ryu & Me, an interview (sort of) with Murakami Ryu, incorporating translated extracts from many of his novels.

En el Pais del Sol (In the Land of the Rising Sun) – Jose Juan Tablada, translated by D.M. Stroud
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KJ 47

Yosa Buson: Haiku master – Edward McFadden,
“Deceptively simple in appearance — after all, each one is only seventeen syllables — haiku begin causing tricks as soon we begin trying to give order to our pathetic little scraps of words. How to cram all of that meaning into seventeen English syllables, when English, with its wave-like rhythms and frequent end stops, its rises and falls, seemingly wants so much more space to move in than the elegantly simple and ascetic, open ended a, ka, sa, ta, na of Japanese?”

KJ 46

The Sunset-Colored Simca – Itsuki Hiroyuki, translated by Ralph McCarthy

KJ 45

The Lists of a Lady-in-Waiting: A portrait of the author of the Pillow Book – David Greer,
“…few Japanese have read the book far enough to know that Shonagon does something else within its pages that reminds us all of our humanity, regardless of our time, culture, or language. She complains. She gloats. She finds fault with others. And when she does, the millennium separating her from us vanishes.”

KJ 42 (Time)

On Translating the Meiji Emperor’s Clock Poem – Harold Wright
“This poem is a tanka by the Emperor Meiji, 122nd Emperor of Japan, who reigned from 1868 to 1912, when Japan began its modern explosion towards the modern world. The poetry of this Emperor has delighted me for years. He wrote tanka about his first exposure to telescopes, photography, trains, steamships, telegraphs, and then to Western-style wars. He expressed grief over troop losses in verse.

KJ 33

The Last Smoker – Tsutsui Yasutaka, translated by Andrew Rankin
“Sitting on the roof the National Diet Building, under attack by tear-gas fired from the Defence Force helicopters circling above, I am smoking my last cigarettes. One of my comrades, a painter called Kusakabe, has just fallen tumbling down to the ground below, making me the last remaining smoker in the whole world. My image, lit up against the night time sky by searchlights on the ground, is probably being broadcast nation-wide by the TV cameras on those helicopters buzzing around me.

KJ 30

The Hokoki: Witness in a Torn World – Kamo no Chomei, translated by David Jenkins & Yasuhiko Moriguchi
“Chomei … represents one of the earliest examples of literature as conscience, as the true action of a man of good faith. We may look to him as a progenitor of those who through the centuries have come to embody Witness as Resistance, refusal to accept complicity as collaborator in an infamous status quo, but rather to art in alliance with the future against the present.”

KJ 29 (Word)

The Art of Translation – Harold Wright
“Translations of poems are basically opinions: the first opinion involves the original poem (What do I think this poem is all about anyway?), and the second opinion involves a personal aesthetic judgment as to what that poem should look or sound like in English. I try to be both literal and poetic (according to my ear anyway) at the same time. But being faithful to two principles is like being faithful to two lovers. At any one moment, you are bound to be a little too close to one side to suit the other.”

Gatewords – Marc P. Keane

Language Goes Two Ways – Gary Snyder
“The way to see with language, to be free with it and to find it a vehicle of self-transcending insight, is to know mind and language both extremely well, and to play with their many possibilities without any special attachment. In doing this, a language yields up surprises and angles that amaze us. Creativity is not something from outside that a poet brings to language, but is a function of a double sort of reading — a hidden or unnoticed pattern in the world is brought forth from deeps of language.”

Darkness in the Throat – Tanikawa Shuntaro, translated by William I. Elliot & Kawamura Kazuo

Canned Foreign – Tawada Yoko, translated by Susan Bernofsky

The Great Gairaigo Confusion – Michael Rea,