One Passage, Five Translations – Sachiko Kashiwaba

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

At SCBWI Tokyo Translation Day on June 16, 2012, Alexander O. Smith presented a workshop on translating excerpts from teen-appropriate novels in contrasting genres. One excerpt was from the novel Tsuzuki no toshokan (The “What’s-Next” Library) by Sachiko Kashiwaba, a work that began as an online novel and won a prestigious Shogakukan Children’s Book Award in 2010.

Kashiwaba is a prolific author of works set in contemporary Japan that weave in fantasy and folklore. Her novel Kiri no muko no fushigi na machi (The Marvelous Village Veiled in Mist) influenced Hayao Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away. 

In Tsuzuki no toshokan, Kashiwaba explores what might happen if the characters from children’s books sought to learn “what happened next” to readers who loved them, just as readers of books seek to learn what happens to their favorite characters in stories. The main character of the novel is a librarian named Momo who, in the excerpt discussed by Smith, has moved back to her childhood home and is reconnecting with a relative.

For this blog post, Smith shared an excerpt from Tsuzuki no toshokan along with translations of four participants in the workshop, followed by his own. He writes:

“Here’s a section from the wonderfully nuanced Kashiwaba piece we translated for the workshop on Saturday. The original Japanese comes first, followed by translations submitted anonymously by translators in attendance, followed by my own take on the section. It’s a great example of how many valid ways there are to translate any given line, especially when dialogue comes into play. See how different each translator’s approach was to the mention of Momo’s father at the top of the section, and how they dealt with the potentially gnarly second ‘mention of her father’ at the end. Also, here you will find five different translations, with four entirely different ways to translate Aunt Anzu’s admonition for Momo to ‘live better.'”

Enjoy! We welcome comments on these renderings of Kashiwaba’s text.

杏おばさんのほうが、
「義正に似て、不器用そうな子だね。」
と、桃さんのお父さんの名前を口にした。
「義正といっしょで、どうせ砂をつかむみたいに、手の中からみんなこぼれてしまったんだろう。どうして、上手に生きられないかねぇ。」
と、ため息をつく。
桃さんは、お父さんまでひきあいにだされて、くちびるをかんだ。

[Source: Tsuzuki no toshokan online version, part 1, pp. 7-8]

Translator A: Aunt Anzu spoke first, mentioning Momo’s father by name. “You seem to have Yoshimasa’s knack for making a hash of things. I suppose you’ve let it all spill through your hands like so much sand, same as he did. I don’t understand,” she sighed, “why you can’t live a little smarter.”
Momo bit her lip, annoyed at having her father brought into this.

Translator B: Her Aunt spoke,
“You look awkward, just like Yoshimasa,” bringing up the name of Momo’s father.
“Yoshimasa and me, we wanted to grab sand but it all spilt out from our hands. How come we can’t have a good life?” she sighed.
Momo bit her lip at having the subject of Dad dragged into the conversation.

Translator C: Aunt Anzu was the first to speak Momo’s father’s name. “You look like Yoshimasa. Clumsy.” She sighed. “You’re just like him. Everything spills out of your hands like sand. Can’t you do anything right?”
Momo bit her lip at the mention of her father.

Translator D: “You’re a bungler just like Yoshimasa, aren’t you?” Aunt Anzu said, mentioning Momo’s father. “You let everything slip through your fingers, just like sand. Why can’t you live like you ought to?”
Momo bit her lip at being compared with her father.

Alexander O. Smith: It was Auntie Anzu who mentioned Momo’s father first. “You’re an unfortunate child, just like Yoshimasa was. Always trying to grab on to everything, ‘til it slips through your fingers like sand. Really,” she sighed. “Can’t you do anything right?”
     She didn’t need to bring him into this, Momo thought, biting her lip.

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