Posts Tagged ‘workshop excerpts’

One Passage, Six Translations—Akiyuki Nosaka

hotaru-no-haka-amazon-co-jpBy Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok 

At SCBWI Japan Translation Day on October 22, 2016, Ginny Tapley Takemori presented a workshop on translating excerpts from literature for young adults. One passage was a paragraph from Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies) by Akiyuki Nosaka (1930–2015), and portrays a war orphan living in Sannomiya Station, Kobe, after the end of World War II.

Prior to Translation Day, five translators submitted renderings of this paragraph. Their renderings were then blinded for critique by Takemori in a full session.

Two of the submitters and Takemori also tackled a paragraph that follows this one, which comprises a single long, highly challenging sentence in the original.

Below are the original passage and five translators’ versions, the final two of which have the further paragraph (not given in Japanese). Below that is Ginny Tapley Takemori’s rendering of both paragraphs.

This passage may disturb young children.

Original Passage

省線三宮駅構内浜側の、化粧タイル剝げ落ちコンクリートむき出しの柱に、背中まるめてもたれかかり、床に尻をつき、両脚まっすぐ投げ出して、さんざ陽に灼かれ、一月近く体を洗わぬのに、清太の瘦せこけた頰の色は、ただ青白く沈んでいて、夜になれば昂ぶる心のおごりか、山賊の如くかがり火焚き声高にののしる男のシルエットをながめ、朝には何事もなかったように学校へ向かうカーキ色に白い風呂敷包みは神戸一中ランドセル背負ったは市立中学、県一親和松蔭山手ともんぺ姿ながら上はセーラー服のその襟の形を見分け、そしてひっきりなしにかたわら通り過ぎる脚の群れの、気づかねばよしふと異臭に目をおとした者は、あわててとび跳ね清太を避ける、清太には眼と鼻の便所へ這いずる力も、すでになかった。

[Source: America hijiki, Hotaru no haka by Akiyuki Nosaka (Shinchosha, 1968). ISBN-10: 4101112037]

Translation A

Seita sat hunched over against a pillar outside the beachside exit of Sannomiya Station, buttocks pressed to the floor and legs stuck straight out before him. The glazed tiles of the pillar were chipped away in places, exposing the concrete underneath. Though his skin had been burned by the harsh sun, and he had not bathed in nearly a month, Seita’s hollow cheeks were pale and sunken. In the night he watched the silhouettes of men who brandished fire and cursed like raiders swelling with arrogance, and in the morning he watched the children walking to school as though nothing had happened. Those with khaki-coloured uniforms who carried their belongings wrapped in white cloths were from Kobe First. The ones with satchels were from public junior high schools. The girls from Kenichi, Shinwa, Shoin, and Yamate all wore loose-fitting pants and middy blouses, but you could tell them apart by their collars. They passed Seita by in an endless stream of legs. Most did not even register that he was there – those who noticed a strange smell and glanced down gave a start and hurried to avoid him. Though it was only a few steps away, Seita no longer had the strength to crawl to the bathroom.

Translation B

Along the government railway line on the ocean side of Sannomiya Station, slouched against the exposed concrete of a pillar whose tiled surface had crumbled away, Seita sat with his backside on the floor and his legs splayed out before him. Despite long exposure to the burning sun and not having bathed in nearly a month, his sunken cheeks were sallow and ashen. At night he stared at the silhouettes of the men who made bonfires and cursed loudly like bandits, animated by the arrogance in their hearts, and in the morning he watched other children heading off to school as if all were right with the world: Kobe Middle School Number One with their white and khaki bundles, Municipal Middle School shouldering school knapsacks, the girls from Prefectural Number One, Shinwa, Shoin, and Yamate all wearing loose workpants and sailor tops differentiated by the shape of each school’s collar. Among the endless stream of legs passing by there were those who, glancing down upon detecting a whiff of something foul, hurriedly leapt away to avoid Seita, who by now lacked even the strength to crawl to the nearby bathroom.

Translation C

Leaning slumped over on the beach side of the Sannomiya Station on the Sho Line against a pillar whose tiles had come off to reveal the bare concrete, butt to the floor, legs sticking straight out in front, completely sunburned, Seita’s emaciated cheeks only became paler, although he hadn’t bathed in almost a month; at night he watched the silhouettes of the men building a bonfires like bandits and shouting curses, perhaps out of pride in their agitation; and in the morning the khakis, whites, and folded cloth bags of Kobe 1 Junior High, the backpacks of the municipal junior high, and top of the prefecture Shinwa, Shoin, and Yamate students he could tell apart by the shape of the sailor collar over their monpe work pants; people in the never-ending crowd of legs passing by who looked down at the bad smell they wish they hadn’t noticed hopped, flustered, to avoid him; already, he didn’t have the strength to crawl even an inch to a better place.

Translation D

On the side of the railway ministry’s Sannomiya station facing the ocean, the tiles were peeling off a concrete pillar. A boy sat under it, hunched, ready to fall over anytime. Butt to floor, legs stretched out, at the mercy of the sun, unwashed for nearly a month. Seita lay, cheeks hollowed, sunken, pale white. In the night, he sat gazing out at silhouettes of men who, as if aroused by their memories, swore like bandits, shrilling at the top of their voices, cracking like bonfires. In the morning, students passed by on their way to school as if nothing had happened, Kobe middle schoolers in their khakis and white cloth bundles, municipal city schoolers with their backpacks, and the Prefectural First, Shinwa, Shoin, and Yamate girls differentiated by the collars of sailor-styled uniforms worn over their working clothes. Endless pairs of feet would move along normally, until a nose caught the odor that brought their eyes down to their feet, then they would jump frantically aside, away. No morsel of strength was left in Seita to crawl to a place away from those noses or eyes.

Children, homeless and orphaned, sit at every 3-foot wide pillar, leaning in what felt like the bosom of their mothers, in the train station. They gather here because it is the only place they are allowed to enter. Or maybe because they longed to be among people, like it used to be. Or perhaps because they could always have water. Or in hope of that someone who would give them something to eat. The black market under the railway tracks at Sannomiya station began in September, from a cup of caramelized sugar water dished straight out of an oil drum going for 50sen each. Soon there were steamed potatoes, steamed cakes made from potato flour, rice balls, glutinous rice cakes, fried rice, red bean soup, steamed buns, udon, tempura rice, curry with rice, cake, rice, barley, sugar, tempura, beef, milk, canned fish, shochu or sweet potato liquor, whiskey, Japanese pears, large summer oranges, rubber boots, bicycle tyre tubes, matches, cigarettes, workman’s two-toed shoes, diaper covers, military blankets, military boots, military uniforms, half boots. An alumite lunch box of barley, freshly-packed in the morning by the wife is a “good ten yen, just ten yen.” A weary hand reaches down to remove a shoe, dangle it on one finger, and offer it instead for “how about twenty, twenty yen.” Seita first wandered in, lured by the smell of food. In time, he would find a space the size of a single grass mat to peddle old clothes. Selling off his late mother’s kimono, the inner dress, sash, and outer collar, which had all faded away while soaking in the water in a bomb shelter, he managed to somehow buy food to survive for two weeks. He then sold his school uniform, which was made of good cloth, those cloth bindings from the calf to the ankle, his shoes, but certainly not his trousers? As he dithered, he gradually came to spend the nights in the station. Families with young boys would return from evacuation in full celebratory color, carrying school bags packed with a mess tin, kettle, and metal helmet. Cloth bags dangling, evacuation hoods still neatly folded within. They probably gave out emergency rations in the trains. Relieved to have come thus far, they would leave behind steamed bran cakes for him, strings undone, like some unwanted baggage. A sympathetic soldier back from the frontlines or an old lady who took pity, reminded of her grandchild around the same age, would place a bite of leftover bread or pan-fried soy beans wrapped in paper a polite distance away, like they would in an offering to Buddha. Seita took these gratefully. Now and then, the station master would try to drive him away, making him get up, but the reserve MP manning the ticket gate would stand up for him. We do have lots of water, he reassured. Once he got back, he just sat. Two weeks later, he could no longer get up.

Translation E

Seita sat on the floor of Sannomiya government railway station, the side toward the ocean. His back sagged against a pillar whose tiles had peeled off, exposing the concrete, and his legs splayed out before him. The sun had roasted him. He had not bathed in nearly a month, and his emaciated cheeks hung hollow and pale. At night, he watched the silhouettes of furious men who lit bonfires and cursed like bandits; in the mornings, he watched students commute to school as if everything were normal. Students in khaki who carried white cloth bundles headed to Kobe Middle School Number 1; students with leather backpacks went to Municipal Middle School. Girls bound for Prefectural College Number 1, or Shinwa or Shoin or Yamate, wore monpe pants and sailor tops whose collars told them apart. In the endless stream of legs were those that jumped away, owners’ eyes averted, upon smelling Seita’s stench. He had not the strength to crawl to the toilet nearby.

Children like him sat in all directions against the three-foot pillars, as if the pillars were their mothers. They had come because the station was the one place where they were allowed, or because they could be near people again here, or because they could drink water, or because they hoped for a handout when someone dropped his guard. As soon as September came, a black market had opened beneath the railroad tracks, beginning with a spot where people paid fifty sen for a cup of sugar water drawn from a steel barrel. Soon there were steamed sweet potatoes, sweet potato flour dumplings, rice balls, daifuku dumplings, fried rice, rice flour dumplings in red bean sauce, manju dumplings, udon, tempura rice, curry rice, cake, plain rice, barley, sugar, tempura, beef, milk, canned fish, shochu liquor, whiskey, pears, sour oranges, rubber boots, bicycles, tire tubes, matches, cigarettes, cloth work shoes, diaper covers, military blankets, military boots, military uniforms, military half boots. A man would hold up some barley meal in an Alumite lunch box his wife had packed that morning and say, “How ’bout it, ten yen?” Another would remove his worn shoes and hold them up by a finger, saying, “Hey, twenty yen, hey, twenty yen.” Seita, lost and drawn in by the food smells, had laid out his dead mother’s under-kimono, obi, false collar, and waist strips for under the obi, all with the colors run and faded due to getting wet in an air raid. These sold for enough to feed him for two weeks, and then he had sold his middle school uniform and gaiters. By the time he was starting to hesitate, wondering if he could really sell his pants, he had begun to spend nights at the station. Families with children sometimes returned by train from bombing evacuation sites, their air raid hoods still folded in canvas bags, their rucksacks holding ration kits, kettles, steel helmets; dressed in their best, they carried the steamed rice-bran dumplings seemingly distributed for emergencies in trains, which they would decide they no longer needed and give Seita to lighten their loads. Or a demobilized soldier or an old person with grandchildren his age might take pity on him. They would leave their items softly a distance away, as if offering them to the Buddha: leftover bread, roasted soybeans. He would receive the gifts gratefully. Sometimes a station employee would chase him off, but a military police reservist at the wickets might knock the employee down and protect Seita, saying they at least had plenty of water here. In that way Seita had put down roots. Two weeks later he could no longer stand.

Translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori

In the mainline Sannomiya Station, bayside exit, Seita sat slumped against a column, its tiles peeling off to expose the bare concrete, with his bottom on the floor and both legs stretched out straight before him. He was sunburned to a frazzle and hadn’t washed for almost a month, yet his emaciated cheeks were sunken and pale. Come nightfall, he gazed at the silhouettes of men conversing rowdily with excessive bravado as they warmed themselves around the watch fire like bandits. In the morning he saw children his age heading off to middle school as if nothing were amiss, khaki-clad boys with white bundles from the top prefectural school and those with satchels on their backs from the city school, and girls sporting sailor blouses over their baggy wartime pantaloons, the folds of their collars indicating whether they attended the prestigious prefectural school or one of the three expensive private academies. The legs of the unseeing crowds filing purposefully past jumped to avoid him only at a whiff of his stench. But Seita no longer had the strength to crawl to the nearby toilet.

War orphans clustered around the base of each of the solid meter-thick columns as if finding in them motherly protection, having gathered here perhaps because it was the only place they were allowed in, or because they yearned to be among the crowds of people, or because here there was water to drink or some hope of scraps of food being tossed their way. Already by the beginning of September someone had started selling burned sugar dissolved in a drum of water for fifty sen a cupful under the railway arches, and almost overnight a black market had sprung up offering steamed sweet potatoes, sweet potato dumplings, rice balls, rice cakes, fried rice, bean soup, bean jam buns, noodles, tempura and rice, curry and rice, and then cake, rice, barley, sugar, tempura, beef, milk, canned fish, rice liquor, whisky, pears, bitter oranges, gum boots, bicycle inner tubes, matches, cigarettes, rubber-soled work shoes, nappies, army blankets, army boots, army uniforms, army boots. Men stood holding out the aluminium lunchboxes of barley rice their wives had packed for them just that morning “Yours for ten yen, yours for ten yen!” or dangling their tired old shoes in one hand “Twenty yen, how about it? Twenty yen!” Drawn singlemindedly by the smell of food, Seita had stumbled aimlessly in and sold the underkimono, sash, collar, and waist tie that were the only mementos he had of his mother from the flooded air raid shelter, the colours faded and run, at a second-hand clothing stall consisting of a single straw mat spread out on the ground, and had thus somehow managed to keep the wolf from the door for a couple of weeks—then went his rayon middle school blazer, gaiters, and shoes, and while wondering whether he could go so far as to sell his trousers, before he knew it he had become a nightly fixture inside the station. Here a boy with his family apparently returning from evacuation to the countryside, fully decked out with his air raid hood neatly folded and placed over his canvas bag, his mess tin and kettle and steel helmet attached to his backpack, left Seita some mouldy ricebran dumplings, no doubt emergency food prepared for the train journey and now it was no longer needed, discarded to lighten the load. Others—a kindly soldier returning from the front, an elderly woman with a grandson his age who took pity on him—left crusts and roasted soybeans wrapped in paper placed quietly at a safe distance, as if making an offering to Buddha, which he gratefully accepted. From time to time he was shooed away by the stationmaster, but the adjunct from the feared military police guarding the ticket gate sent the man sprawling, protecting him, and there was always enough water, so having found some comfort he settled in and put down roots until one day a couple of weeks later he could no longer stand.

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One Passage, Seven Translations—Minae Mizumura

Honkaku shosetsu 1By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

At SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2014 on October 18, Juliet Winters Carpenter presented a workshop using excerpts from A True Novel (in Japanese, Honkaku shosetsu) by Minae Mizumura. A True Novel is a re-imagining of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights set in postwar Japan and the U.S.

For the workshop, 15 participants translated one to two selected excerpts from the novel in advance. Their submissions were blinded and critiqued by Carpenter in a 90-minute session.

For this blog post, Carpenter has selected six translations of one excerpt, and edited each of the translations slightly. Below are the original Japanese passage, the six translations, and Carpenter’s own rendering.

This portion of A True Novel appears in chapter 5, “Lightbulbs,” and contains recollections about two children, Taro and Yoko. The narrator is a woman named Fumiko who worked as maid for Yoko’s family. At the time she is recalling, she would have been in her late teens.

Carpenter’s published translation of A True Novel won the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award Grand Prize for Fiction and was first runner-up for Best Translated Book of 2014. Carpenter will soon receive the American Translators Association’s 2014 Lewis Galantière Award for A True Novel.

 

Original Passage

Honkaku shosetsu 2 庭の隅に一人乗りのブランコがあり、一人何十回かづつ漕ぐと交替するらしく、女中部屋で本を読むわたしの耳に遠くから、おまけのおまけの汽車ぽっぽ、ぽーっと鳴ったら代わりましょ、と歌うよう子ちゃんの声がくり返しくり返し聞こえてきます。子供というのは飽きっぽいようで大人にはとうていがまんがならないほど同じことをしつこくくり返すのが平気で、ある日小一時間してもまだ、おまけのおまけの汽車ぽっぽ、が聞こえてくるので、呆れて本を閉じて見にいけば、ブランコの板の上に立ったよう子ちゃんが太郎ちゃんに背中を押してもらって、両手できつく綱をつかみ、両足を踏ん張り、くっくっくっと歓喜が身体中からこぼれ出るように笑いながら漕ぐ姿がありました。太郎ちゃん自身が漕ぐときはあまりに勢いをつけ過ぎて一回転してしまったりもします。あんたがたどこさ、肥後さ、肥後どこさ、熊本さ、熊本どこさ、と鞠つきもします。ゴム跳びもします。よう子ちゃんが跳べる高さ以上にはしませんが、太郎ちゃんはそれで構わないようです。

[Source: Honkaku shosetsu by Minae Mizumura (Shinchosha, 2002)]

 

Translation A

There was a swing in one corner of the lot. When one child had swung several dozen times, the other would take a turn. As I sat reading my book in the servant’s room, I would hear Yoko announce that they should switch off after singing, “Steam train, steam train, hear the whistle blow!” She would chant this again and again. Children may seem impatient, but they can repeat something over and over that would drive an adult crazy. One day when nearly an hour had passed and I could still hear “steam train, steam train, hear the whistle blow,” I gave up trying to read and went to watch them. I found Yoko standing upright on the wooden swing, having Taro push her from behind. She gripped the ropes tightly, her feet planted on the seat, and squealed in delight. Taro, for his part, swung so hard on his turns that he flipped over the crossbeam. They sang other chants such as, “Where are you from, Sir?” “Higo, Sir!” “Where in Higo, Sir?” “Kumamoto, Sir!” “Where in Kumamoto, Sir?” They bounced a ball as they chanted. Sometimes they also stretched a rubber cord out and took turns jumping over it. They would never set it so high that Yoko could not jump over, however. Apparently that was fine with Taro.

 

Translation B

There was a single seat swing in the corner of the garden where the children played, each swinging a dozen or so times before giving way for the other to take a turn. I could hear them in the distance from the servant’s room where I sat reading, singing one of those nursery rhymes that children have the capacity to chant tirelessly over and over again in a way that adults can never bear to do: Choo choo train, whistling down the track, time to change over, don’t look back! One day I had been listening to them sing Choo Choo train endlessly for almost an hour when I decided to give up reading and go see for myself. Yoko stood tightly gripping the swing ropes, her feet planted firmly on the plank seat as Taro pushed her from behind, spilling peals of joyous laughter as her body rose into the arc of each swing. When it was Taro’s turn he sometimes put so much power into the swing that he would go right round in a complete circle. Where are you from? I’m from Higo. Where in Higo? Kumamoto. Where in Kumamoto? they sang while throwing a handball between them. And sometimes they played jumpies with elastic. They couldn’t set the elastic higher than Yoko could jump, but Taro didn’t seem to mind.

 

Translation C

In the corner of the yard there was a swing and it seemed like they were trading off after one of them had swung some number of times: reading a book in my room, I could hear Yoko’s voice faintly as she chanted the choo-choo train song about taking turns over and over. Children are capricious and yet have no problem doing the same thing so many times it would drive an adult up a wall: one day after almost an hour they were still chanting; I couldn’t believe it and when I closed my book and went to look, Yoko was standing on the seat, gripping the ropes tightly with both hands, legs braced, getting pushed by Taro; as she swung she laughed and laughed as if the delight inside her were spilling out. When Taro swung he would sometimes pump so hard he would flip the bar. They’d bounce a ball and sing a song about Tanukis in Kumamoto. They’d do Chinese jump rope. Taro jumped only as high as Yoko could, but he didn’t seem to mind holding back.

 

Translation D

The children took turns pushing each other on the single swing that hung in the corner of the yard. From the maid’s chambers where I read, I could hear them singing their song again and again.

Listen to the choo-choo’s whistle blow,
When the train goes toot then you must go!

Children soon tire of things, yet some things that would bore any adult to tears they have no trouble doing over and over, and so that day, after a good hour of hearing the train going toot, I put down my book with a sigh and went to take a look. I found Taro pushing Yoko’s back as she stood, her little hands gripping the chains tightly, feet planted firmly on the swing, chuckles of mirth bubbling out as she swung back and forth. When Taro swung he pumped his legs so hard that sometimes he circled clear over the bar. I used to see them play with balls, bouncing them in time with their songs.

Where are you?
In Higo, friend!
Where’s Higo?
In Kumamoto!
Where o where is Kumamoto?

They played with a large rubber band, too—as large as a jump rope—which they hopped over and twisted around their feet. Though they could only go as high as Yoko could jump, Taro didn’t seem to mind.

 

Translation E

In one corner of the yard there was a swing, which only one child could use at a time, and they were apparently taking turns, each yielding his or her place after a certain number of swings. From the maid’s room where I sat reading, I could hear Yoko’s voice chanting over and over again: “When the train goes choo-choo, then it’s my turn too.” You might think that children are quick to grow tired of something, but they can also be surprisingly persistent, endlessly repeating the same thing in a way that an adult would find unbearable. One day, having found myself listening to “the train goes choo-choo” for close to an hour, I finally closed my book and went to see what was going on. Yoko was standing on the plank while Taro pushed her from behind, her hands wrapped tightly around the ropes and both feet standing firm, pumping her legs and laughing pouring out of her, as if pure joy was coursing throughout her entire body. When it was Taro’s turn, he pumped with such strength that sometimes the swing would do a complete 360-degree turn. They also played a bouncing ball game, accompanied with a traditional children’s song, and a kind of Chinese skip rope. The rope would, of course, only be raised as high as was possible for Yoko to jump, but that didn’t seem to bother Taro.

 

Translation F

In a corner of the garden, there was a swing where one of the two would swing back and forth a few dozen times before it was the other one’s turn. Far off in the maid’s room where I was reading, I could hear over and over again Yōko’s voice childishly chanting the familiar line, All aboard, all aboard! Take turns! Choo choo, that’s your cue! Children are entirely fine with doggedly repeating something that adults could never tolerate for as long. That day, even after nearly an hour, I could still hear, All aboard, all aboard! Take turns! Choo choo, that’s your cue! Irritated, I shut the book and went to take a look. I saw Yōko standing on the seat of the swing with Tarō pushing her. Both hands clutching the ropes tightly, her feet planted firmly, she was swinging while laughing with squeals of delight, joy overflowing from her entire body. When Tarō himself was on the swing, he would sometimes push much too forcefully and go all the way around. They also played a maritsuki game, bouncing a ball back and forth under one leg while singing, Where are you from, hey! Higo, hey! Where in Higo, hey! Kumamoto, hey! Where in Kumamoto, hey!1 They also played jump rope. They could only go as high as Yōko could jump, but Tarō didn’t seem to mind.

1A well-known song said to have originated during the Bakumatsu era (1853-1867) and sung when playing this children’s ball game. Higo Province was an old province in southern Japan in the area now known as Kumamoto Prefecture, where the city Kumamoto is now the capital.

 

Translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter

There was a swing in one corner, and they took turns on it, each child being allowed a certain number of swings. As I sat in my room reading, in the distance I’d hear Yoko chanting over and over again:

A-True-Novel-Slipcase-225x390Swing, swing, here comes the train.
When you hear the whistle, then we change again.

Children have such short attention spans, and yet they will cheerfully go on repeating the same thing endlessly, beyond the endurance of any adult. One day that everlasting “Swing, swing” kept up for a good hour, until finally I shut my book and went to have a look. Yoko was standing on the wooden seat while Taro pushed her from behind, her hands clutching the ropes and her feet braced, her whole body quivering with joy as she pumped her little legs for all she was worth and laughter poured out of her. When it was Taro’s turn, sometimes he got so carried away he’d swing right around, full circle.

They also bounced balls while chanting songs to the rhythm:

Tell me where you’re from, sir.
I’m from Higo, sir.
Where in Higo, sir?
Kumamoto, sir.
Where in Kumamoto, sir?

And they tried high-jumping over a long chain of elastic bands attached to trees. It was never higher than Yoko could jump—so actually low-jumping—but Taro didn’t seem to mind.

[Source: A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter (Other Press, 2013)]

One Passage, Six Translations – Nahoko Uehashi

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

The website Books from Japan has launched a page devoted to Japanese children’s and teen books, in time for the 50th Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy. All titles on the Fresh Japan page are available for translation and publication abroad.

One title is Koteki no kanata Koteki no kanata cover(Beyond the Fox Whistle), a YA fantasy novel by Nahoko Uehashi. Uehashi authored the Moribito novels that earned the Batchelder Award and Batchelder Honor for Arthur A. Levine Books in 2009–10, in translation by Cathy Hirano.

At SCBWI Tokyo Translation Day 2010, Cathy Hirano led a workshop that focused in part on Koteki no kanata. Five participants submitted translations of the novel’s opening, which were blinded and discussed.

Below is the opening of Koteki no kanata followed by the five translators’ renderings and, at the end, Cathy Hirano’s. The six translations give a sense of the choices that will face the translator if (when!) a publisher releases this novel in English.

Note: Cathy Hirano explains that Nobi, the name of the animal in the passage, means wildfire. “In the Japanese, the speed of the red fox cub Nobi racing through the fields is reinforced by his name.”

一 野火駆ける

りょうりょうと風が吹き渡る夕暮れの野を、まるで火が走るように、赤い毛なみを光らせて、一匹の子狐が駆けていた。

背後から、狂ったように吠える犬の声が、いくつも乱れて、追ってくる。

腹に鋭い痛みが走って、子狐は一瞬腹をふるわせた。

その子狐——〈野火〉は、おのれの命が、煙のように細くたなびき、消えていくのを感じていた。

鼻には、まだ生暖かい血の匂いが、むっとこもっている。標的の喉笛を食いちぎったときに浴びた返り血の匂いだ。

主につかわされて、人を殺したのはこれがはじめてだったが、その武者は、たやすく殺せる標的ではなかった。だれから知恵を授けられたのか、魔除けの刀を身につけていたのだ。

[Source: Koteki no kanata by Nahoko Uehashi (Rironsha, 2003)]

Translator A:

Nobi’s Chase

A fox cub raced across the windswept field at sunset, looking like a flame of fire blazing through the field as his red coat shimmered brightly in the setting sun.

From a distance, the sound of dogs barking chaotically, seemingly half-crazed, chased the fox cub.

A sharp pain raced through the fox’s belly, making it shudder for an instant.

The fox cub, Nobi, could feel the breath of life disappear from him like a thin trail of smoke.

The smell of fresh, warm blood still filled his nostrils–the sour smell of the blood splattered him as he tore open the jugular of his prey.

This was his first human kill, and, despite his training with Master, this warrior was not an easy prey to kill. He had learned well from someone, as he carried a sword to ward off evil spirits.

Translator B:

1. Nobi Runs

A single fox cub ran across a windswept field at twilight, his red coat glinting like flame.

Behind him, the bays of dogs, barking as if crazed, neared steadily.

A sharp pain shot through his abdomen. He shook it off.

The cub, Nobi, could feel his life leaving him, little by little, trailing off like wisps of smoke.

The stench of warm blood filled his nose. It was the blood that had spurted from his victim when he ripped apart his windpipe.

This was the first time he had ever killed a person on orders from his master. The warrior had not been an easy target. Who knows where he had gained his knowledge, but he had carried a sword with a charm to ward off evil.

Translator C:

Nobi’s Flight

Winds whistled over the fields. A young fox, fur glinting in the evening’s glow, fled like a streak of wildfire racing over the fields. From behind came the sound of hounds baying, crazed voices jumbling in the pursuit.

Nobi, the little fox, felt the thread of his life force trail out as if into a wisp that might vanish at any moment. A searing pain tore through him, its spasms gripping his belly as he ran. In his nostrils lingered the fresh smell of blood, the blood that had gushed forth when his jaws closed over the windpipe of his quarry.

It was the first time he had killed a human since the Master first ordered him out, and the warrior had not been easy prey. The man had had some special knowledge and had carried a sword endowed with the power to protect him from evil.

Translator D:

1. Running Wildfire

Winds roared across dry fields as a lone young fox ran through, quick as a blaze, its red fur flashing in the setting sun.

Behind him, he could hear the crazed barking of his hunters, discordant and relentless.

Sharp heat flashed through his abdomen and for a moment, his belly shivered in pain.

The young fox—Wildfire, could sense his lifespirit waver and wane like smoke in the wind.

The pervasive and sickening smell of fresh warm blood clung to his nostrils. It was the blood that had spattered him when he slashed through his target’s windpipe.

Although this was the first time he had ever assassinated a human for his master, the warrior had hardly been an easy kill. Someone must have advised him well for he had carried a warded sword.

Translator E:

Nobi Runs

With his red fur shining like a burning flame, the young fox runs across a field at dusk through which a lonely wind blows.  From behind, many dogs bark dissonantly as they chase him.  A scathing pain ran through the young fox’s belly, and for an instant, his belly shudders.  That young fox—Nobi—felt his life hang like thin trails of smoke disappearing into the air.

On his nose, the smell of lukewarm blood closed in.  It is the smell of the blood that sprayed out when the young fox bit the target’s windpipe.  Made to do it by his master, this was the first time he killed a person, but the warrior was not an easy target.  Someone must have warned the warrior, or he had an amulet on his sword.

Cathy Hirano:

Chapter 1

Nobi Runs

The wind swept across a field at sunset. A lone fox cub, his fur flashing like flame, raced through the long grass. Close on his heels came the crazed cacophony of hounds in pursuit. A sharp pain seared his belly and a shudder ran through him. He could feel his life stretch like a wisp of smoke, dissipating slowly. His nose was still rank with the raw smell of warm blood; the blood that had spurted from his victim’s throat when Nobi had ripped it out.

This was the first time Nobi had ever killed at his master’s bidding, and the warrior, armed with a sword protected by warding spells, had been no easy target.

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.