Paul Quirk, Ena City, Gifu Prefecture
2. Translator Cathy Hirano
Cathy Hirano, who has more than 25 years’ experience translating Japanese children’s literature—and is the translator for Nahoko Uehashi, winner of the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing—gave a presentation at AFCC 2014 about the need to provide more Asian content to the world’s children. This is a brief summary of some of the topics she covered.
Motivation for translating children’s books
One of the unfortunate things about the business of translating is that translators can only do one job at a time. Most translators interested in children’s books have to fit their book translations in between other better paying jobs, and many people would ask, why bother?
To answer that question, Cathy discussed the importance of giving children exposure to different cultures through books. By reading books with protagonists from other cultures, children (and adults) can see that, although people may have a different idea of what is ‘normal,’ it doesn’t matter which country they live in, or what language they speak, everyone is capable of laughter, of shedding tears, of feeling pain, love or sadness; they just have different ways of expressing it.
So while it may not be well paid, the translation of literature for children is important. It enables children from different parts of the world to better understand each other.
Going beyond the translation
In the second part of her talk, Cathy gave examples from Uehashi’s Moribito series focused on bringing fluency to a text. In the case of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness, Cathy was blessed with enthusiastic editor Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, who approached the books as if they were actually written in English. Nahoko Uehashi also played an important role in the translation, remaining open to ideas for altering the book for its North American readership. Cathy’s role morphed into the position of mediator, with the final translation becoming a collaboration among author, editor, and translator. Although this collaboration created more work for Cathy, the end result was a book which flowed a lot more smoothly and captured reader’s hearts.
In the audience for Cathy’s talk, there were quite a number of young people interested in translating children’s literature from Asia. Many of them went up to Cathy at the conclusion of her talk to thank her for inspiring them.
Personally, I also felt very inspired from listening to Cathy’s talk and meeting her in person. She is incredibly passionate about translating and promoting children’s literature and it really comes across when she talks. I found myself wondering, does she get all this energy from translating children’s books, or is she able to translate all of these children’s books because she has so much energy . . . ? It might be a bit of both.
And now, having read some of the books that she has translated, I know that she picks great books to translate (other titles she has translated include Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince by Noriko Ogiwara, The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto, and The Bear and the Wildcat also by Kazumi Yumoto, illustrated by Komako Sakai). If you haven’t read these then you really should grab a copy.
One other thing worth mentioning: Cathy didn’t have copies of the Moribito series to show people at the AFCC, but an anonymous donor sent four copies of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit to make sure that Cathy had some available. Of course these sold out in no time, and Cathy donated the money from sale of the books to AFCC, for the cause of promoting children’s literature from Asia.
See Part 1 of this series.