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.
Nominations for ALTA’s 2014 Lucien Stryk Translation Prize
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) invites nominations of translations for ALTA’s 2014 Lucien Stryk Translation Prize. The winner will receive $5,000, and the award-winning book and translator will be featured at ALTA’s 37th conference, to be held November 12-15, 2014 in Milwaukee, WI. To be eligible, a submission must have been published in 2013 in the U.S. or Canada and be a book-length translation into English of Asian poetry or of source texts from (but not commentaries on) Zen Buddhism. Languages eligible are Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Sanskrit, Tamil, Thai, Tibetan, and Vietnamese. The deadline for receiving submissions is August 1. Send a copy of each nominated book to:
ALTA/Lucien Stryk Translation Prize The University of Texas at Dallas 800 West Campbell Road, JO 51 Richardson, TX 75080-3021
Submissions will be judged according to the literary significance of the original and the success of the translation in recreating the literary artistry of the original.
While the Lucien Stryk Translation Prize is primarily intended to recognize the translation of contemporary works, retranslations or first-time translations of important older works will also be seriously considered. The Lucien Stryk Translation Prize, which has been established by an anonymous donor, celebrates the importance of Asian translation for international literature and promotes the translation of Asian works into English. Stryk was an internationally acclaimed translator of Japanese and Chinese Zen poetry, renowned Zen poet himself, and former professor of English at Northern Illinois University.
The 2012 Stryk Prize winner was Don Mee Choi forAll the Garbage of the World, Unite! by Kim Hyesoon (Action Books, 2011), and the 2013 Stryk Prize winner was Lucas Klein forNotes on the Mosquito by Xi Chuan (New Directions, 2012).
I went to the opening of the new Godzilla in IMAX 3-D last night. (The theater was packed with middle-aged, comic-book and sci-fi loving guys, many of whom had worn out their favorite Godzilla T-shirt.)
Of course, the visuals were astounding, but the writers had worked into the plot unmistakable echoes of 3/11 and 9/11, the two recent national traumas of Japan and America that have come to define our experience in so many ways the twenty first-century. In the parallel universe of the film, however, all responsibility for the tragedies lay with forces other than humanity. The final message seemed to be, “Work hard and do your best to prevent mishaps, but nature will naturally take its own course, and humanity should just let that happen. Things will cosmically work out somehow.” That message makes no sense in our current world, where humanity is responsible for virtually every large disaster. We have to be better than that.
Exhibited at the Roppongi Crossing 2013 exhibit at the Mori Art Museum 森美術館・六本木クロッシング2013展 Made of chairs and clothing collected from people around the artist in the Roppongi Hills area in 2013 600 × 600 × 190 cm
Amanda Vail at Rain Taxi, one of the journals that I often turn to for literary reviews, wrote a glowing review of my translation of the gay Japanese poet TAKAHASHI Mutsuo’s memoirs, Twelve Views from the Distance. In it, she writes,
Takahashi’s memoir presents not only the difficulties faced by citizens living through a war, but also the challenges of growing up in poverty, of being raised by a single mother who is forced to make ends meet in creative ways, and of exploring an alternative sexuality, among others. The novel presents twelve reflections on the time and place it depicts; some of the details are very specific, and many are universal. Throughout, Twelve Views from the Distance is unflinching, compassionate, and beautiful.
During this reading at Stanford University on May 2, 2014, Itō Hiromi will appear with me as her translator. We plan to read from her work about the 2011 disasters in Japan, as well as from the translation of her long, narrative poem Wild Grass on the Riverbank, which will be forthcoming from Action Books in fall 2014. This award-winning, book-length narrative poem, called by critics “unprecedented” in the history of modern Japanese literature, deals with transpacific migration, linguistic isolation, and the question of what it means to belong to a place.
Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize in Japanese Literature, Thought, and Society
The Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University is pleased to announce a prize honoring the life and work of Kyoko Selden. The prize will pay homage to the finest achievements in Japanese literature, thought, and society through the medium of translation. Kyoko Selden’s translations and writings ranged widely across such realms as Japanese women writers, the atomic bomb experience, Ainu life and culture, historical and contemporary literature, poetry and prose, Japanese art, and early education (the Suzuki method). In the same spirit, the prize will recognize the breadth of Japanese writings, classical and contemporary. Collaborative translations are welcomed. In order to encourage classroom use and wide dissemination of the winning entries, prize-winning translations, together with the original Japanese text, will be made freely available on the web. The winning translations will be published online at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus <http://www.japanfocus.org/>.
Submit three copies of a translation and the original text of an unpublished work or a new translation of a previously published work to the Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize, Department of Asian Studies, 350 Rockefeller Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. E-mail submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide both paper and electronic versions of the translation and the original text. The maximum length of a submission is 20,000 words. The translation should be accompanied by an introduction of up to 1,000 words. In case of translation of longer works, a 20,000-word excerpt should be submitted.
The closing date for the first prize competition is May 30, 2014. Awards will be announced on August 31, 2014. A prize of $2,500 will be given to the author(s) of the award-winning translation. For further information, please visit <http://lrc.cornell.edu/asian/seldenmemorial>.
Next week, I’ll be giving a handful of talks and poetry readings in California. Here is a flyer for an talk that I will be giving at California State University, Long Beach. Thanks go to Jordan Smith, an assistant professor of comparative literature there at CSULB, for arranging this visit.
Call for Submissions: Seeking re-translations of poetry and prose Inventory No. 5 The Re-Translation Issue
In celebration of its fifth anniversary, the Editors of Inventory are assembling a special issue devoted exclusively to original re-translations. That is, they are seeking fresh and thoughtful translations of literary texts that have already been translated into English. Compelling reasons for re-translation might include a problematic first translation or an exceptionally rich text affording a multiplicity of possible translations. Re-translations from less-taught and non-European languages are especially encouraged, as are re-translations of works little known in the Anglophone world.
Based in Princeton University’s Department of Comparative Literature, Inventory is a journal of literary translation supported by the Interdoctoral Program for the Humanities, the Lewis Center for the Arts, and the Program for Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton. Submit to email@example.com by June 1, 2014 to be considered.
On April 18-20, 2014, University of Michigan is going to be holding a three-day conference on one of Japan’s greatest modern authors NATSUME Sōseki 夏目漱石. Highlights include a visit by John NATHAN, who did the new translation of Sōseki’s Light and Dark 『明暗』, and TAWADA Yōko 多和田葉子, one of Japan’s most important living novelists. To register, click here.