Posts Tagged ‘Eiko Kadono’

Nanette McGuinness Talks with Emily Balistrieri, Translator of Andersen Award Winner Eiko Kadono

By Nanette McGuinness, San Francisco

SCBWI member Emily Balistrieri is the translator from Japanese into English of Overlord, by Kugane Maruyama, and The Refugees’ Daughter, by Takuji Ichikawa, among other titles. His translation of Kiki’s Delivery Service will be released by Delacorte Books for Young Readers in July 2020, after author Eiko Kadono won the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award in Writing. Emily translates books and manga for children and adults, video games, and anime subtitles from Japanese into English, and his latest children’s translation is a bilingual storybook in the “Mashin Sentai Kiramager” universe published by Kodansha in Japan.

Nanetta McGuinness (NM): I’ve read that you started out as a Russian major in college. What then drew you to Japanese and how did you decide to become a translator?

Emily Balistrieri (EB): Switching focus to Japanese was very dramatic because I canceled my study abroad in Russia. I still feel sad about that sometimes. But I just realized that if I was reading manga, into anime, obsessed with Haruki Murakami (this was in 2005ish), watching Takeshi Kitano films, listening to J-pop, playing Japanese video games, etc., there seemed to be a pretty clear path in Japanese, whereas I wasn’t sure what at the time what I would do with Russian. Thinking of it that way, it’s almost embarrassing—like picking which sport to play based on which local team gets more winning headlines. But I guess you have to pick somehow.

NM: I’m in awe of those proficient in a language that uses such a different character system, let alone such a fascinatingly different culture. The wonderful Cathy Hirano, who also works in this realm, has said that “translating between Japanese and English requires “fairly strenuous cultural and mental gymnastics.”* Can you talk about your experience and what it’s like translating from Japanese to English?

EB: I know that in some languages, the nitty-gritty of how well you can preserve the exact punctuation is a thing people consider. In Japanese, it can sometimes be, “Should these sentences even be in this order?” And there are plenty of instances when a question mark in Japanese is not a question mark in English.

As far as the characters go, it’s possible for people to be very creative with them. A great example is Hideo Furukawa’s new book where he takes the kanji for “forest” 森, which is made up of three “trees” 木, and adds three more 木 at the bottom (to make the pyramid shape bigger) for the title that is “pronounced” (and searchable as) おおきな森, “big forest”: the official English translation of the title is FFFFForesTTTT). One of my favorite parts of Japanese is rubi, characters placed over other (usually more complex) characters to show how to pronounce them. It gets interesting when, instead of writing the actual pronunciation, the author might put a word borrowed from another language, an explanation, or other somehow relevant text. In The Saga of Tanya the Evil, author Carlo Zen uses rubi at one point to make a euphemistic conversation about torture explicit to the reader. So the writing system can be front and center at times, but usually it’s easier to deal with than the grammar, at least for me.

The subject-object-verb order of Japanese (“I from Japanese to English translate”) is pretty easy to get used to. It gets tougher when a rarely used phrase pops up—one that you probably studied for a test at some point, but see so infrequently in the wild that you can never remember it properly. Similarly challenging are archaic forms, which some use to create atmosphere in the same way you might find Shakespearian flourishes in English. More common, but often frustrating, are sentences that come with a ton of qualifiers before the subject; they can contain info that, at least to an English reader, seems totally off-topic in the paragraph or just feels super wordy compared to what is actually being said. On the other hand, sometimes the way writers are able to layer in details is impressive, but it can still be a challenge to replicate in English.

NM: Kiki’s Delivery Service is a beloved Miyazaki anime classic with millions of fans worldwide, and its author, Eiko Kadono, won the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing in 2018. So it’s very exciting that the book that inspired Miyazaki will be back in print for English-language readers. What was it like to labor in the shadow of such an iconic work and by a lauded, living author?

EB: Honestly, I tried to just take it one page at a time (in the turn-of-phrase sense, not literally, haha) and capture the spirit as best I could. Kirkus Reviews was kind enough to call the translation “descriptive and whimsical,” but of course that’s all Eiko Kadono’s writing; if the English readers are as charmed as Japanese readers are, then I did my job right.

NM: I think I saw that Kiki’s Delivery Service is actually part of a series. Has there been any discussion about translating and publishing more of the series into English?

EB: Yes! There are six books in the main series and then two other volumes. There hasn’t been any discussion (at least not involving me) yet, but maybe if the first book does well, we’ll be able to continue? I sure hope so because a lot happens. Imagine if only Anne of Green Gables had been translated into Japanese and none of other volumes! (Anne is an extremely popular character in Japan; there is a classic animated TV series and even a prequel series made to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the first book’s publication.)

NM: There are a number of differences between the Kiki’s Delivery Service film and the book—as generally happens when switching genres. Did you watch/rewatch the Miyazaki film when you were working on the translation? If you didn’t, it might be interesting to readers to hear why; if you did, could you talk about some of the differences between the book and the film?

EB: I deliberately avoided the movie (although I can still sing the English ending song from when I watched it as a kid), even in Japanese with no subtitles. Incidentally, I avoided the more recent live-action version, too. I didn’t want to be influenced by the way the characters were portrayed there, since this is specifically a translation of Kadono’s work.

Hayao Miyazaki kind of takes his inspiration and runs with it. Kadono has been quoted as saying that when she first saw the movie she was surprised how different it was. But she said she made sure before production started that he didn’t change the title or Kiki’s view of the world.**

NM: It’s always a fascinating process doing a retranslation.*** How did you prepare? Did you avoid looking at the first translation from 2003 so as not to be influenced, or did you read through it to know what you thought worked best? Were you able to have any contact with Lynne E. Riggs, the first translator, or with author Kadono?

EB: It was my first time translating it, so it never felt like a retranslation to me, even though that’s what it ends up as. I definitely avoided the previous translation because I wanted to come to the text completely fresh. A strange coincidence is that I have known Lynne Riggs for years because she is one of the founders of the Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators. I knew she had translated Kiki, so I never imagined that I or anyone else would be doing it. I feel almost a bit guilty, but I try to think of it as a sort of torch-passing. I definitely look up to her as a wordsmith community organizer here in the Kanto region (I’m sure she wishes I had more energy to help). She and the other members of SWET have a huge wealth of expertise and experience between them, so their events can be really inspiring.

NM: You’re listed on the title page of the book as the translator: congratulations! As a translator, I know how rare it is for an American publisher to do this. How did that come about? Once you turned in your translation to Delacorte, did you have any input on revisions?

EB: Thanks! I think “name on the interior” is how Delacorte does it. I went ahead and asked if the cover was possible, but it wasn’t this time. Never hurts to ask! The editing process was a bit irregular because the editor who brought me on was different from the one I did the bulk of the work with (Alexandra, if you’re reading this, please don’t be a stranger!), who is different from the one who finished the project. So I essentially did two rounds with them, and I know they made some other adjustments as well. Still, I’m used to just crossing my fingers after I submit a manuscript, so it was nice to be able to have so much back-and-forth for a change. I’m excited to see the final version.

NM: What are you currently working on? Any dream projects or books you’d like to translate next?

EB: Overlord and The Saga of Tanya the Evil are both ongoing series, so I’m always working on those, although they’re not for kids. I am chipping away on a masterpiece of a YA science-fiction novel about a first crush by Tetsuya Sato called Syndrome (and I’m pitching it, too, so please get in touch if this sounds good—it’s fantastic).

Other than that, here’s something to look forward to: I’m working again for Delacorte, to publish Shaw Kuzki’s Soul Lanterns. The protagonist is a 12-year-old girl living in Hiroshima 25 years after the atomic bomb, and the story is about how she and her classmates wrap their head around the horrors of the bomb and war, in general, by connecting with the adults in their community who experienced it firsthand. Kuzki is a second-generation A-bomb survivor, herself, so she’s an important voice to amplify in English. I really hope it’ll be a book that kids can read and discuss at school.

Thank you very much!

*“Catching up with Cathy Hirano,” SCBWI Japan Translation Group, May 14, 2011, https://ihatov.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/an-interview-with-cathy-hirano/ 

** In a Japanese-language interview she did after winning the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2018, https://www.bookbang.jp/article/554311 

*** Kiki’s Delivery Service was first translated into English by Lynne E. Riggs in 2003 for Annick Press, with illustrations by Akiko Hayashi—nearly two decades after it was published in Japan.

Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 50 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, and German into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her latest translations, Luisa: Now and Then (Humanoids, 2018) and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (First Second, 2017) were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also named a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book and a 2020 GLLI YA Honor Book. Her most recent translations are Little Josephine: Memory in Pieces (Life Drawn, 2020), Super Sisters (Papercutz, 2020), and Undead Messiah #3 (TOKYOPOP, 2020).

Cross-posted from SCBWI: The Blog with permission.

SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018 in Yokohama

By Emily Balistrieri, Tokyo

SCBWI Japan held Translation Day 2018 on October 20 in Yokohama. The fifth in this biennial series of single-day conferences for translators and translation-lovers alike had a fantastic line-up of speakers with both inspiring and practical wisdom to share.

Kicking off the day was a pre-recorded Skype interview with Takami Nieda whose translation of Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro was published by AmazonCrossing this past March. Go is a great example of a book that while not particularly marketed for teenagers in Japan fits perfectly in the YA category in English. Nieda discussed that as well as how nice it was to work with AmazonCrossing. People unsure about Amazon as a publisher might be interested to know that she found the editors friendly and the editing process rigorous.

For aspiring translators, Nieda recommended attending a short translation program, such as the British Centre for Literary Translation summer school or the Breadloaf Translators’ Conference, and pairing with another translator for peer editing. It also sounded like she would recommend having a day job because it allows you to pick and choose your projects more.

After the participants in the day got to know each other a bit and receive some SCBWI, SWET and submission news, the second session began. In another pre-recorded Skype interview, publisher and managing director of Pushkin Press Adam Freudenheim talked about publishing translations in the UK. People often observe a lack of demand for translations, but he said the key is finding your market. Pushkin’s (and Penguin Random House’s) series of six novellas translated from Japanese—including Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami, which was a centerpiece of this event—has been doing great. Sometimes finding your audience can be tricky, though: Freudenheim shared that the collection of Akiyuki Nosaka stories translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori originally published for children as The Whale that Fell in Love with a Submarine has been doing much better repackaged and expanded for adults as The Cake Tree in the Ruins.

In response to questions about the nuts and bolts of publishing translations, Freudenheim said that it’s easier to publish longer translations or otherwise take risks when there are subsidies or grants available, often from source countries’ governments. If translations can be co-funded by American and UK publishers, that also helps. He noted that it’s possible to be successful approaching Pushkin cold and emphasized sharing your passion for the book when pitching in addition to the whats and the whys.

Before lunch Louise Heal Kawai, translation of Ms. Ice Sandwich among many other books, spoke on the importance of networking, which is how she ended up on that project. She also shared how she localized Mieko Kawakami’s punny nickname for a girl whose fart smells like tea! (Let’s just say that’s what you get when the book’s protagonist is a boy in fourth grade.)

After a sunny lunch break, during which participants could practice her networking advice, Kawai led a translation workshop on an excerpt from the sequel to Ms. Ice Sandwich, Ichigo jamu kara ichigo o hikeba (which can be variously translated as If You Take the Strawberries Out of Strawberry Jam or Strawberry Jam Minus the Strawberries, among other ways) from the volume Akogare (Longing, or Longings or Yearning). Although there were plenty of challenges regarding the Japanese, including the name of a candy bar that was actually fictitious and finding the correct tense, the main exercise turned out to be writing in voice for a sixth-grade girl. Words like “adept,” “disgusted,” and “smitten” were frowned upon, while choices like “super popular,” “stuff like that,” and the exchange “No way,”-“Yes way,” got the nod.

One of the challenges in translating books from Japan, especially for young people, is packaging them for English-language book categories. Author and SCBWI Japan Co-Regional Advisor Holly Thompson led a session explaining some of the most common definitions of middle-grade and young-adult fiction, which can seem strict but do offer room for crossover success. Participants broke into groups for an exercise in classifying novels as MG or YA based on the opening pages. Drugs and sex references were the most obvious markers of YA besides older protagonists, while MG books seemed immediately to contain more family references and simpler vocabulary.

In the last session, Thompson was joined by Japanese Board on Books for Young People president (not to mention prolific translator) Yumiko Sakuma and SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator Avery Fischer Udagawa in a discussion about Japanese book categories vs. US/UK book categories.

In Japan, the consideration is less about age-appropriate vocabulary than age-appropriate kanji. Then, even if a child is the protagonist, you can simply decide as a marketing strategy that it’s a book for adults if you want adults to read it, too, as happened in the case of Tonneru no Mori 1945 (The Tunnel of Trees 1945) by Eiko Kadono, winner of the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. Sakuma also explained that to some extent there’s a belief that it’s better not to set ages for books because kids all read at their own pace. Given what people throughout the day noted appears to be a more fluid mindset about especially protagonist age in Japan, it can be a challenge to make English categories fit.

After this nine-to-five Saturday of kidlit translation immersion, surely even the most exhausted of the participants were feeling inspired to get going on some new projects.

 

 

Global Literature in Libraries Initiative Features Japan, Including Children’s and YA Literature

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

Looking for a strong dose of commentary on Japanese literary works online? Try the special Japan-in-Translation series at the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (published throughout May 2018). Organized by David Jacobson, this series offered an entire month of blog posts spanning poetry and prose, manga, light novels, chapter books, picture books, fun with kanji, and onomatopoeia, plus reflections on publishing and reading translated works. Several members of SCBWI Japan contributed.

Here is the full list of posts in the series, including many on children’s literature:

Eiko Kadono Wins 2018 Andersen Award

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Japanese author Eiko Kadono has won the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing, a prestigious biennial award often described as the Nobel Prize for children’s literature. The news was announced at Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018.

Right: Eiko Kadono (Yomiuri Shimbun)

The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) press release says of Kadono:

“There is an ineffable charm, compassion, and élan in the work of this great Japanese author.  Whether in her many marvellous and funny picture books, or her great series of novels about the witch Kiki, or her novel set during World War II about a brave girl who must walk through a terrifying tunnel of trees to get to school, Kadono’s books are always surprising, engaging, and empowering.  And almost always fun. And always life affirming.

“Although Kadono has travelled widely throughout the world, her stories are deeply rooted in Japan and show us a Japan that is filled with all kinds of unexpected people.  Her female characters are singularly self-determining and enterprising; figuring out how to cope with all kinds of complications without suffering too many self-doubts – though some of these do creep in.  As such, they are perfect for this time when we are all seeking girls and women in books who can inspire and delight us with their agency. The language in her picture books is notable for its playfulness and use of onomatopoeia. And of course, the beautiful, but simple language in her novels makes them extremely readable.”

Kadono is the author of Kiki’s Delivery Service, basis of the animated film by Studio Ghibli, among nearly 250 original works for children and more than 100 translations into Japanese.

Kadono is the third Japanese children’s author to win the Andersen, following Michio Mado in 1994 and Nahoko Uehashi in 2014. The 2018 Andersen Award for Illustration has also been given, to Igor Oleynikov of Russia.

Eiko Kadono Named to Andersen Award Shortlist

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Japanese author Eiko Kadono has been named to the shortlist for the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award (“little Nobel”) in Writing. She is the author of Kiki’s Delivery Service, basis of the well-known animated film by Studio Ghibli.

Born in Tokyo in 1935, Kadono has written and translated prolifically for children of multiple generations.

The International Board on Books for Young People notes, “When she was ten, Eiko Kadono was evacuated to northern Japan during the Pacific War. These memories formed the basis of one of her best-known stories, Rasuto ran (Last Run, 2011) and the experience of war as a child is at the root of her commitment to peace and happiness. She studied American literature and then travelled extensively in Europe as well as in North and South America and began writing. She has published nearly 250 original works—picture books, books for pre-schoolers, fantasy and young-adult—and translated into Japanese more than 100 works by foreign authors including Raymond Briggs and Dick Bruna. Her best-known works include Zubon senchosan no hanashi (Tales of an Old Sea Captain, 1981) and Odorobo Burabura-shi (Grand Thief Burabura, 1981), both of which won prizes in Japan. In 1985 she published the first of six volumes of Majo no takkyubin (Kiki’s Delivery Service, 1985) that won the Noma and Shogakukan Prizes and was selected for the IBBY Honour List in 1986. Eiko Kadono has also been a champion of reading and books for children and has been recognised for her contributions to children’s literature with the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2000, and the Order of the Rising Sun—Gold Rays with Rosette in 2014.”

This video shows the 2018 Andersen Award shortlistees, including Kadono, and gives a glimpse of their workspaces. It also shows the Andersen jury at work.

Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono has been published in English by Annick Press, translated by Lynne E. Riggs.