Chapter 9

is up. There's a party, and a lot of weird stuff happens, and there was one word that took me like five whole damn minutes to figure out (へえつく張る, a Tokyo-accent variant of 這いつくばる).

There's also a racial slur, kind of. Our hero calls the Clown a ちゃんちゃん (chan-chan) which, in context, can only have been meant as an insulting likening of the Clown to a Chinese person: ちゃんちゃん was slang for the queue which all Chinese men had to wear during the Qing (aka Manchu) dynasty, who still ruled China when this was written. What's more, it comes after some lighthearted drunken singing which happens to refer to the Sino-Japanese War, which ended with Japan advancing into Manchuria, and we all know how that story ended half a century later.

Of course at the time it didn't seem quite so ominous; even the British empire had formed an alliance with Japan a few years before Botchan was written. Still, from a modern standpoint it can make for some slightly uncomfortable reading. And unlike a straight reprint of Huckleberry Finn or something, this is a translation: the question is not "do I censor the historically accurate racial slur?", but "how precisely do I render this slur into English, given that I'm not exactly adhering to period speech?"

In other words: I granted myself license to upgrade my Botchan's epithets to words like "motherfucker", to keep his forcefulness (as I hear it) relatively the same for a modern reader -- so is it also OK to tone down words that have become more taboo since the book was written?

In the end, I decided, I guess it is OK. But I didn't want to lose the ugly, racist aspect of the line entirely -- that would be too dishonest -- so I tried to compromise. Maybe later I'll asterisk in a link to this blog entry.

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