日付変更線 International Date Line

稲垣足穂著『弥勒』が林海象監督によって映画化

One of the most curious and fascinating pieces of modernist Japanese literature, Inagaki Taruho’s novel Miroku (Matreiya) was made in 2013 into a film by the director Hayashi Kaizō (b. 1957), known for his detective stories and work on the Ultraman series.

Taruho (1900-1977) wrote this novel during the 1930s in response to Ishikawa Jun’s novel Fugen (translated by William J. Tyler in the book The Bodhisattva), and somewhat like its predecessor, it is a meandering, flowing, and sometimes even perplexing novel of ideas.  At first I had trouble imagining how Kaizō might have put Taruho’s work on film, considering how much of it consists of a long flow of sometimes disjointed thoughts.  However, as one can see in the clip above, Kaizō has done so by drawing upon the sorts of images and motifs that recur so often in Taruho’s other novels: papier-mâché sets, glittering crescent moons, astronomers looking through telescopes, and
bishōnen (beautiful young men).  

Interestingly, the bishōnen in Kaizō’s film are played by female actors. In his short story “The Story of R-chan and S”「RちゃんとSの話」, which I have translated for William J. Tyler’s anthology Modanizumu, features a young boy who is fascinated with the Takurazuka Theater, in which young women play all of the roles, including those of men.  I have written a great deal about this story and Taruho’s other work in my own book Writing the Love of Boys, which explores Taruho’s homoerotic fascination with pretty, young men and the ways he saw them as representing a new, modern aesthetic sensibility.

与謝蕪村句集の英訳は2014年の日米友好基金の翻訳賞を受賞
I was pleased to find out that W.S. Merwin and Takako Lento’s translation of the Collected Poems of Yosa Buson has just won the 2014 U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature, which is distributed by the Donald Keene Center at Columbia University. 
Click here for more information about the prize. Click here for a link to the book on Amazon.  A few months ago, I wrote this review about the book on Amazon.

Yosa Buson (与謝蕪村) is one of the most important haiku poets to have ever lived. Born about a generation after the death of Matsuo Bashō, Buson helped to push haikai in important, new directions, and shape haiku (the first verse of a haikai sequence) into an individual, independent art form.It is no surprise that many collections of Japanese traditional verse in English, such as Robert Hass’ collection of “essential haiku,” contain some of Buson’s poems. Most of those collections, however, only contain of a tiny number of poems, which are presented with minimal commentary and little to no context. Because the offerings in English are currently so poor, Anglophone readers have not yet really had the opportunity to figure out what is actually Buson-like about Buson, and how this giant’s voice differs from those of other haiku greats, such as Bashō, Issa, and Shiki.Those of us who love Japanese poetry owe a great debt of gratitude to Takako Lento and W.S. Merwin for giving us the first thorough retrospective of Buson’s work in English. This book presents renditions of 868 haiku, plus a small scattering of longer poems—the best look at Buson yet in this English. All of the poems are presented in Romanized Japanese as well.Donald Keene once wrote about Buson’s poetry that it was “so exclusively concerned with his private feelings, tastes, and perceptions that it strikes us as being modern; there is no barrier of time between him and us” (Seeds in the Heart, 1976, p. 343). Indeed, some of the poems do feel strikingly imagistic, such as haiku 211, “nanohana ya / kujira mo yorazu / umi kurenu,” rendered as Lento and Merwin as “A field of mustard flowers / no whales passed today / night falls on the sea.”At moments, Buson even gives us glimpses of surrealism avant la lettre, such as with haiku 360: “dedemushi ya / sono tsuno moji no / nijiri gaki” or “With his horns / a snail slowly scrawls / a hesitant letter.” At the same time, Lento and Merwin give us a look at Buson’s other side as well, the one that loves to draw upon Chinese influences and earlier Heian-period literature. The picture that emerges is one of an erudite, intensely focused poet with a distinctive voice.Personally, I was surprised that this otherwise excellent book provides so little commentary. The translator’s introduction includes a short, one-page summary of Buson’s position in Japanese poetry, but obviously, there is much more that could be said about such an important poet. I suspect that Lento and Merwin felt they did not need to reinvent the wheel; after all, the Japanese literature scholar Makoto Ueda has written about Buson’s life and work in the long out-of-print book The Path of Flowering Thorn. Still, it would have been useful, especially for those of us teaching Japanese literature at universities, to have had some basic information about Buson in the same volume as the translations themselves.All in all, these are the best Buson translations currently available, hands down. Lento and Merwin deserve much praise for bringing them to us. I hope that they will collaborate again in the future and will continue enriching our bookshelves with their collaborations.

与謝蕪村句集の英訳は2014年の日米友好基金の翻訳賞を受賞

I was pleased to find out that W.S. Merwin and Takako Lento’s translation of the Collected Poems of Yosa Buson has just won the 2014 U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature, which is distributed by the Donald Keene Center at Columbia University. 

Click here for more information about the prize. 
Click here for a link to the book on Amazon.  

A few months ago, I wrote this review about the book on Amazon.

Yosa Buson (与謝蕪村) is one of the most important haiku poets to have ever lived. Born about a generation after the death of Matsuo Bashō, Buson helped to push haikai in important, new directions, and shape haiku (the first verse of a haikai sequence) into an individual, independent art form.

It is no surprise that many collections of Japanese traditional verse in English, such as Robert Hass’ collection of “essential haiku,” contain some of Buson’s poems. Most of those collections, however, only contain of a tiny number of poems, which are presented with minimal commentary and little to no context. Because the offerings in English are currently so poor, Anglophone readers have not yet really had the opportunity to figure out what is actually Buson-like about Buson, and how this giant’s voice differs from those of other haiku greats, such as Bashō, Issa, and Shiki.

Those of us who love Japanese poetry owe a great debt of gratitude to Takako Lento and W.S. Merwin for giving us the first thorough retrospective of Buson’s work in English. This book presents renditions of 868 haiku, plus a small scattering of longer poems—the best look at Buson yet in this English. All of the poems are presented in Romanized Japanese as well.

Donald Keene once wrote about Buson’s poetry that it was “so exclusively concerned with his private feelings, tastes, and perceptions that it strikes us as being modern; there is no barrier of time between him and us” (Seeds in the Heart, 1976, p. 343). Indeed, some of the poems do feel strikingly imagistic, such as haiku 211, “nanohana ya / kujira mo yorazu / umi kurenu,” rendered as Lento and Merwin as “A field of mustard flowers / no whales passed today / night falls on the sea.”

At moments, Buson even gives us glimpses of surrealism avant la lettre, such as with haiku 360: “dedemushi ya / sono tsuno moji no / nijiri gaki” or “With his horns / a snail slowly scrawls / a hesitant letter.” At the same time, Lento and Merwin give us a look at Buson’s other side as well, the one that loves to draw upon Chinese influences and earlier Heian-period literature. The picture that emerges is one of an erudite, intensely focused poet with a distinctive voice.

Personally, I was surprised that this otherwise excellent book provides so little commentary. The translator’s introduction includes a short, one-page summary of Buson’s position in Japanese poetry, but obviously, there is much more that could be said about such an important poet. I suspect that Lento and Merwin felt they did not need to reinvent the wheel; after all, the Japanese literature scholar Makoto Ueda has written about Buson’s life and work in the long out-of-print book The Path of Flowering Thorn. Still, it would have been useful, especially for those of us teaching Japanese literature at universities, to have had some basic information about Buson in the same volume as the translations themselves.

All in all, these are the best Buson translations currently available, hands down. Lento and Merwin deserve much praise for bringing them to us. I hope that they will collaborate again in the future and will continue enriching our bookshelves with their collaborations.

いま石牟礼道子を読む

Tomorrow, I’ll be participating in a round-table discussion in Kumamoto about the literature of the Kyūshū-based writer Ishimure Michiko 石牟礼道子 (born 1927).  Ishimure made a name for herself as one of the foremost environmentalist writers and activists in Japan in 1969, when she published the first part of the book Paradise in the Sea of Sorrow 『苦界浄土』, which wrote in heart-rending detail about the massive human and environmental damage inflicted upon the Kyushu coastline by the industrial conglomerate Chisso, known for its production of chemicals and fertilizer.  In the 1950s and 1960s, Chisso dumped massive quantities of methyl mercury into the Ariake Sea off Kyūshū, and not surprisingly, the local fishermen in Minamata 水俣 and the surrounding areas developed deformities and began dying horrifying deaths. Chisso denied any involvement in the outbreak of the strange “disease,” and the local and national government hesitated for a few years to get involved, thus leading to massive casualties. In this powerful book about the horrors unfolding in her own hometown of Minamata, Ishimure documents the human costs of the disaster, the ways that the “disease” disproportionally struck the poor, and the intricate mechanisms by which capitalism deforms local communities. 

Since writing that explosively powerful book, Ishimure has continued to write novels and poetry about environmental themes, but never has her literature been more relevant than today, when environmental degradation and the abusive excesses of capitalist production are happening on a broader scale than ever.  A complete selection of her works was published in 18 volumes by Fujiwara Shoten, but even since the release of these “complete works,” she has published several more volumes of interviews and writing. In fact, just this week, Shichōsha 思潮社 is publishing a collection of her poetry entitled The Grassy Villages of My Ancestors『祖さまの草の邑.  Currently, Ishimure is 87 years old.

There will be four of us talking about Ishimure’s work tomorrow at the Kumamoto City Museum of Modern Art: the philosopher/critic Watanabe Kyōji 渡辺京二, the California- and Kumamoto-based poet Itō Hiromi 伊藤比呂美, the critic Taniguchi Kinue 谷口絹枝, and me, a simple admirer of her work, Jeffrey Angles.

「祈るべき天と思えど天の病む」(道子)

日本が、世界が、石牟礼文学を読みたがっている。そんな時代にわたしたちは生きています。熊本から発信します。

【出演】渡辺京二、伊藤比呂美、谷口絹枝、ジェフリー・アングルス

定員:100名、予約:1,000円/当日:1,500円
お問い合わせ・ご予約:kumamotoband@gmail.com

カール・サンドバーグ「カラマズーの罪」(詩)
Carl Sandberg “The Sins of Kalamazoo”

I think that Kalamazoo has become slightly more full of sin than when Carl Sandberg published this poem in the collection Smoke and Steel in1922. Although this little film by Logan Marshall-Green is lovely, I don’t think it was shot in Kalamazoo at all.

Human institutions are built on terms that are more like the word “happiness” than they are like the word “apple.” Acknowledging that the concepts on which we build these institutions, our expectations, and our forms of life are tied to the languages in which they take shape and are expressed does not mean abandoning the task of making these institutions better, more equitable, more precise, and it doesn’t mean granting privilege to one experience or one identity or one tradition over others. It means agreeing that the project of building these defective institutions is an endless and often a violent one, beset by injustices that need to be expressed and imagined in words we will have to translate again and again, for ourselves and for others.
Jacques Lezra, “How to Translate an Untranslatable Book,” The Washington Post, 16 Jul 2014.
テレビに移る牛の古い写真
At the Allegan Antique Market last Saturday, in a box of photos showing cows and steers in different fairs and competitions, I found this wonderfully sweet old photograph, taken long before it was possible to call up televised images instantly on Youtube or Hulu. I still remember the days when there were few ways to record a televised image other than waiting by the TV set with a camera ready.  (I remember my father taking pictures of the television during one of the early Space Shuttle flights.)  No doubt this photograph was kept to show somebody’s friends that a favorite steer had hit the big time!

テレビに移る牛の古い写真

At the Allegan Antique Market last Saturday, in a box of photos showing cows and steers in different fairs and competitions, I found this wonderfully sweet old photograph, taken long before it was possible to call up televised images instantly on Youtube or Hulu. I still remember the days when there were few ways to record a televised image other than waiting by the TV set with a camera ready.  (I remember my father taking pictures of the television during one of the early Space Shuttle flights.)  No doubt this photograph was kept to show somebody’s friends that a favorite steer had hit the big time!

北斗、小熊座、大熊座。Life is better with a sense of wonder.

北斗、小熊座、大熊座。
Life is better with a sense of wonder.

I see each translation as gain: you can gain a little or you can gain a lot, but every time a work of literature is translated, you end up with more, not less. Even a “bad” translation is a gain.
Karen Emmerich, “Translation Questionnaire,” Full Stop

The Bozar Expo in Brussels is doing what promises to be an amazing exhibition about the connection between the avant-garde and feminism during the 1970s.  Click here for more information. In conjunction with that exhibition, Bozar is also putting out a small collection entitled “I Sit Like a Garbage God,” which contains avant-garde poetry written by feminist poets around the world during the same era. 

It looks like this mini-expo and the catalog that is being published along with it will contain an awe-inspiring line-up of poets! Among them are the critically important Japanese poet Hiromi Itō, who will be appearing my English translations, and one of my absolutely favorite writers, the Korean poet Kim Hyesoon who will be appearing the translations of Don Mee Choi.

Click here for more information.

中原中也詩英訳パネルディスカッション
伊藤比呂美、ジェフリー・アングルス、アーサー・ビナード、四元康祐
Panel discussion about translating Nakahara Chūya into English
Sponsored by the Nakahara Chūya Memorial Museum, Yamaguchi City

A group of bilingual poets—Hiromi Itō, Jeffrey Angles, Arthur Binard, and Yasuhiro Yotsumoto—is coming together in Yamaguchi City to do a panel discussion on July 13, 2014 about our ongoing project to translate into English the modernist poet, Nakahara Chūya, a figure often considered one of the fathers of Japanese modernist poetry. (Chūya was heavily influenced by symbolism and Dada, and he was one of the most important Japanese translators of Rimbaud.) This event will be hosted by the always wonderful Nakahara Chūya Memorial Museum.

「ゆあーん ゆよーん ゆやゆよん」は英語でどう言うの?日米両国で活動を続けている詩人・伊藤比呂美をコーディネーターとして、日本語と英語双方に深い造詣をもつ詩人・翻訳家のアーサー・ビナード、ジェフリー・アングルス、四元康祐をパネリストに迎え、英訳することで初めて見えてくる中也の詩の特徴、日本語と英語の詩的表現の違いなどを、熱く語り合います。

日時:7月13日(日) 14:00~16:00(開場:13:30~)
会場:ホテル松政 2階 芙蓉の間
(山口市湯田温泉3丁目5-8 TEL.083-922-2000)

参加料:無料・事前申込み不要

お問合せ:中原中也記念館
TEL 083-932-6430 FAX 083-932-6431
http://www.chuyakan.jp/04news/20th09.html

吉田俊の新刊書『戦争の文化から平和の文化へ:日中韓の戦争と平和資料館』
Takashi Yoshida, From Cultures of War to Cultures of Peace: War and Peace Museums in Japan, China, and South Korea (Portland, ME: MerwinAsia, 2014)Because news from Japan is filled with stories about textbook censors routinely downplaying the aggression of the imperial Japanese military during World War II and politicians visiting Yasukuni Shrine 靖国神社, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are countless people across Japan actively invested in remembering the experience of World War II from an entirely different perspective. Most people know of Japan’s culpability during the war, but there are activists across the country who actively seek to remember the difficult parts of history that nationalist politicians are quick to leave out. By creating dialogue about Japan’s aggression on the mainland and its disastrous results, these grass-roots activists hope to inspire the population of Japan never to want to engage in war again. They seek to overturn textbook accounts of the war and show that the war was not just something that happened to Japan; the war was something Japan created.   
My friend and colleague Takashi Yoshida’s new book From Cultures of War to Cultures of Peace: War and Peace Museums in Japan, China, and South Korea (Portland, ME: MerwinAsia, 2014) examines the history of public displays about World War II. Discussions of war-related displays in Japan usually focus on the Yūshūkan 遊就館, the infamously nationalist, pro-military museum located at Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies World War II and selectively passes over Japanese atrocities on the mainland.  Yoshida travelled through Japan to countless small museums and public displays created at the grass-roots level in order to remember the war. He finds that, if anything, the nationalist Yūshūkan is an aberration. The majority of museums dedicated to war memory in Japan seek to forge a new culture of peace. 
In examining the history of those places, Yoshida looks at newspaper articles, editorials, histories of governmental support, and public debates about the display contents in order to better understand the ways that people have talked about World War II as part of their own contemporary sociopolitical projects. In addition, Yoshida visited a number of similar sites in China and South Korea, showing once again that there is sometimes a sizeable gap between the official rhetoric of politicians and the beliefs of ordinary citizens. 
This important book should, I hope, begin the process of bringing the work of postwar Japanese peace activists to the forefront so that Japan’s image on the international stage is not fashioned only by the actions and rhetoric of politicians seeking to earn support from well-funded, politically active nationalist groups. 
Prof. Yoshida is a professor of history in the Department of History at Western Michigan University and one of the core faculty of the WMU Soga Japan Center. He is the author of The Making the “The Rape of Nanking”: History and Memory in Japan, China, and the United States (London: Oxford University Press, 2009), which examines the differences in the ways that Japan, China, and the U.S. remember the Nanjing massacres of 1937. As one might expect with such a difficult subject, Yoshida finds that contemporary political realities are always at play within the process of remembering the past. The new book published this year is an extension of Yoshida’s ongoing interest in war memory and the ways that the use of a reified “past” continues to inform current thinking in Japan and its neighbors.

吉田俊の新刊書『戦争の文化から平和の文化へ:日中韓の戦争と平和資料館』

Takashi Yoshida, From Cultures of War to Cultures of Peace: War and Peace Museums in Japan, China, and South Korea (Portland, ME: MerwinAsia, 2014)

Because news from Japan is filled with stories about textbook censors routinely downplaying the aggression of the imperial Japanese military during World War II and politicians visiting Yasukuni Shrine 靖国神社, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are countless people across Japan actively invested in remembering the experience of World War II from an entirely different perspective. Most people know of Japan’s culpability during the war, but there are activists across the country who actively seek to remember the difficult parts of history that nationalist politicians are quick to leave out. By creating dialogue about Japan’s aggression on the mainland and its disastrous results, these grass-roots activists hope to inspire the population of Japan never to want to engage in war again. They seek to overturn textbook accounts of the war and show that the war was not just something that happened to Japan; the war was something Japan created.   

My friend and colleague Takashi Yoshida’s new book From Cultures of War to Cultures of Peace: War and Peace Museums in Japan, China, and South Korea (Portland, ME: MerwinAsia, 2014) examines the history of public displays about World War II. Discussions of war-related displays in Japan usually focus on the Yūshūkan 遊就館, the infamously nationalist, pro-military museum located at Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies World War II and selectively passes over Japanese atrocities on the mainland.  Yoshida travelled through Japan to countless small museums and public displays created at the grass-roots level in order to remember the war. He finds that, if anything, the nationalist Yūshūkan is an aberration. The majority of museums dedicated to war memory in Japan seek to forge a new culture of peace.

In examining the history of those places, Yoshida looks at newspaper articles, editorials, histories of governmental support, and public debates about the display contents in order to better understand the ways that people have talked about World War II as part of their own contemporary sociopolitical projects. In addition, Yoshida visited a number of similar sites in China and South Korea, showing once again that there is sometimes a sizeable gap between the official rhetoric of politicians and the beliefs of ordinary citizens. 

This important book should, I hope, begin the process of bringing the work of postwar Japanese peace activists to the forefront so that Japan’s image on the international stage is not fashioned only by the actions and rhetoric of politicians seeking to earn support from well-funded, politically active nationalist groups. 

Prof. Yoshida is a professor of history in the Department of History at Western Michigan University and one of the core faculty of the WMU Soga Japan Center. He is the author of The Making the “The Rape of Nanking”: History and Memory in Japan, China, and the United States (London: Oxford University Press, 2009), which examines the differences in the ways that Japan, China, and the U.S. remember the Nanjing massacres of 1937. As one might expect with such a difficult subject, Yoshida finds that contemporary political realities are always at play within the process of remembering the past. The new book published this year is an extension of Yoshida’s ongoing interest in war memory and the ways that the use of a reified “past” continues to inform current thinking in Japan and its neighbors.

新井高子「ベッドと織機」と英訳

Yesterday, I posted a few thoughts about the new book of poetry by the feminist poet ARAI Takako, one of the most provocative and theoretically interesting young figures in the Japanese poetic world.  Today, I wanted to share the title work from that collection, which I translated as “Beds and Looms” for publication in the inaugural issue of the journal Southpaw (2012), a left-learning journal of art and writing that explores issues of cultural displacement, global capitalism, and the legacy of colonialism.  

Arai’s father was the owner of a small, cottage-style, weaving factory in Kiryū, Gunma Prefecture, a town known for textile production since ancient times. At its height, it employed a few dozen people, the overwhelming majority of which were women. This poem is part of a series that Arai has written about the lives of the women workers she observed while growing up in the factory.

This particular poem juxtaposes the images of baby beds, the mattresses on which adult workers met and made love, and the looms which the factory women used to make their living. In doing so, it exploresthe ways that different forms of desire—sexual desire, motherly desire, the desire for labor, and the desire for commodities—intersected on the floor of her father’s factory. Powerful and brilliant.

新井高子の新刊詩集『ベッドと織機』は不可欠の作品!

For some time, I’ve been meaning to write a few words to say how bowled over I am by the newest book by the feminist writer ARAI Takako, a Japanese poet whom I think is one of the undiscovered geniuses of contemporary Japanese letters. Not only is her work socially involved and globally aware in a way that is unusual to find among contemporary Japanese writers, her use of vibrant, living, dialect-studded language gives her a voice that is utterly uniquely her own. 

Her new book 『ベッドと織機』(Beds and Looms), published in late 2013 by Michitani, is a probing investigation of labor, women’s status, desire, and disaster in contemporary Japan. Many of the poems in this collection are from her “Factory” series, which describes the experiences of her and the other women workers in her father’s small textile factory in Kiryū, a city in Gunma prefecture known for weaving. I have much to say about those poems, one of which I translated for Southpaw, the leftist journal of global art and writing, but for the moment, I’d like to comment on one of the poems in this collection inspired by the March 11, 2011 disasters.  

Arai has written that in the immediate aftermath of the disasters, her friends repeatedly urged her to write, realizing that they were living through momentous times and hoping that she could somehow come to grips with their experiences through language. In an essay written in 2013 for the Museum of Contemporary Japanese Poetry, Tanka, and Haiku, she wrote,

I believe, without a doubt, that people desired poetry. As the immeasurable anxiety brought about by the tsunami and nuclear accident continued to grow, I was communicating with my friends via e-mail and telephone. They spurred me on countless times, saying, “It is precisely because of this moment we are living through that you need to write poetry.” I was taken off guard because I felt this was the first time that I was told this sort of thing by someone who had no connection with poetry.  

Cited from “Kodama deshō ka, iie,” in Nihon Gendai Shiika Bungakukan, ed. Ashita kara fuite kuru kaze: 2011.3.11 to shiika, sono go. Kitakami-shi: Nihon Gendai Shiika Bungakukan, 2013, pp. 4-5.

In early May, Arai made a trip to Kesennuma, one of the coastal Tōhoku cities leveled by the tsunami.  While there, Arai found that shoes and clothing from the tsunami victims were still washing onto shore daily, and she decided to write about that in her work.  (In fact, the photographs of debris that I have posted above are ones that Arai took while in Kesennuma.)  The site of the shoes inspired her to write the poem “Katahō no kutsu,” which she read in numerous poetry vigils in mid-2011 as a eulogy to the victims of 3/11.  I have translated this poem as “Half a Pair of Shoes” for a collection of 3/11-related poetry that is currently under review.

In this poem, the poppy, which serves as a symbol of the poet herself, leans toward the wet, memory-soaked shoe, and the shoe opens its “eyes,” which have born silent witness to the disaster.  The eyes seem to morph into the eyes of the deceased child, and the poppy/poet imagines the visions reflected in his eyes in the final moments of his life.  The poem’s abrupt ending, however, suggests the problems of such a project.  The object, which seems so suggestive, seems to want to help the poet discover the story, dropping a shoelace deep inside, as if trying to provide a lifeline to the missing person and his memory.  Still, it is clear that the missing child cannot return, and his story is only knowable through guesswork.  The poppy/poet cannot offer any meaningful salvation to the child, who is already gone.  All it can do is drop its petals inside the shoe.  In other words, the poet cannot really recover lost lives; all the poet can do is invite the silent shoe to serve as the starting point for a story. 

Elsewhere, in commenting on her own pre-2011 work, Arai has noted that one of the major projects of her poetry is to provide a space that would allow the ghosts of the past to haunt her and her readers.  

Ghosts and spirits have the power to teach us the past. There is a part of me that believes that. We tend to forget everything so quickly, don’t we? We humans go through life in such an irresponsible way. That’s especially true now, when our societies and economic systems speed forward at full tilt leaving us to chase after them. Our amnesia extends even to our worst tragedies. That’s why I want ghosts and spirits to remain close, so they can be our teachers. 

The poem “Half a Pair of Shoes” is an attempt to do exactly what she has described here—to allow the ghosts of the recently deceased victims of the tsunami back onto the stage of history—even while remaining aware of the limitations of that project. As this poem reminds us, the desire to remember will always ultimately run up against the unknowability of traumatic experience, creating an insolvable epistemological problem. 

多和田葉子のウェスタン・ミシガン大学訪問の写真(2014年4月20〜22日)

In late April, we were fortunate to have TAWADA Yōko, one of Japan’s most scintillatingly brilliant writers, come visit us at Western Michigan University, where she gave an unforgettable reading from her recent essays, poetry, and novels. While at WMU, she gave the reading debut of her short story「彼岸」or "Equinox," a sci-fi evocation of a post-apocalyptic Japan which has been rendered uninhabitable by a massive nuclear meltdown. The original Japanese version of this story is soon to be published in the journal 『早稲田文学』Waseda bungaku in Japan, and I have been translating it for publication abroad. 

Here are some photographs from Tawada’s visit. The photograph of her in fur was born out of a moment of spontaneous silliness. While chatting about her novel 『雪の練習生』(The Practitioners of Snow), which is narrated from the point of view of three polar bears, she began to wonder what she would look like as a bear. It just so happened that my partner, a former antique dealer, happened to have an an antique beaver jacket, antique beaver gloves, and a Russian-style hat in the closet, and so we pulled them out for her to try on and see. Not bear, of course, but at least it gave a hint of what Kuma no Yōko might look like! 

アメリカの一番よく読まれている絵本作家、ドクター・スースの和訳を取り上げる拙論は『Japan Forum』の新しい特集「Geographies of Childhood」(幼児期の地理学)に載りました。アメリカでも広く知られていないが、第二次世界大戦中、スースは戦時中の日本を風刺する漫画を描いたり、アメリカ陸軍の映画班に所属して日本文化と軍隊主義の問題を取り上げるドクメンタリー映画を作ったりしました。戦後になって、スースは『ライフ雑誌』のために取材しに訪日して、関西で知り合った友人からインスピレーションを受けて、アメリカ児童文学の古典になる『ぞうのホートンひとだすけ』を書きました。その歴史から始まり、本論はスースの和訳史、そして絵本に隠る教訓の翻訳による変容を論じています。特に、占領下の日本で活躍した翻訳家・大森武男と、1970年頃に「児童文学の翻訳の王様」と言われた渡辺茂男と、2000年頃にスースの和訳を出したフェミニストの詩人・伊藤比呂美の貢献を重視しています。論文は英語で書いたが、興味のある方に喜んで送ります。

The new special issue of Japan Forum (Vol. 26, No. 2)is entitled Geographies of Childhood and contains several fascinating articles about the ways that globalization, translation, and localization have shaped children’s culture in postwar and contemporary Japan.  Among them is my article “Dr. Seuss Goes to Japan: Ideology and the Translation of an American Icon,” which looks at the history of Dr. Seuss translations into Japanese. It begins by looking at Dr. Seuss’s own long, intimate, personal engagement with Japan, beginning with his World War II political cartoons satirizing Japan, his contributions to Frank Capra’s wartime and Occupation-era documentaries about rebuilding Japanese culture, his fact-finding visit for Life magazine in 1953, and the ways that inspired Seuss’s own writing. It then moves on to see how Japanese translators have dealt with the messages embedded in Seuss’s work (especially the messages related to Japan) and the changing ways that they have used Seuss in their own political and social agendas over time. In particular, it focuses on the Japanese-language translations of the Occupation-era translator Ōmori Takeo, the prolific translator of children’s books during the 1970s Watanabe Shigeo, and the contemporary feminist poet Itō Hiromi.   

The article is free to download for the first fifty people who click here.  If you would like to read it but are unable to download it from the link above, please e-mail me, and I will be happy to send a copy.