Sagawa Chika in stereo

So there I was, just having completed a translation of SAGAWA Chika's "Morning bread" (朝のパン), and looking around for a good Sagawa link, when I find a whole bunch of Sagawa translated by NAKAYASU Sawako. D'oh!

But it occurs to me that there may be some value in a little compare-and-contrast, and so:

One morning I see friend on friend escaping from the window.

Green insect seduction. In the orchard a woman whose socks have been removed is killed. Morning in a top hat from behind the orchard follows. Green-printed newspaper under its arm.

In the end I too must come down from the hill.
The street cafés are beautiful glass spheres and in brown fluid drown a gang of men.
Their clothing through the fluid spreads.

La madame du monocle tears up her bread at last and throws it true.

I make no apologies for being more partial to mine—it is, after all, mine—but nor do I pretend that mine supersedes Nakayasu's or renders it irrelevant. A few notes on the differences between Nakayasu's version and my own are listed below (the original can be found here—search for "朝のパン").

  • "In the morning" vs "one morning": Nakayasu's is a more accurate translation of the original, which is simply asa with a comma ("朝、"). I strayed for the sake of the sound.
  • "Several friends" vs "friend on friend": The original is ikutari mo no tomora (幾人もの友等). I feel that the mo conveys a sensation that there are unusually many friends, and wrote it that way, but my repetition of "friend" is an innovation with nothing to justify it.
  • "Temptation of the green insect" vs "Green insect seduction": I chose to reflect the order of the original; Nakayasu's translation, being a more natural English phrase, is closer to the original's normalcy level.
  • "Silk hat" vs "top hat": The original Japanese is shiruku hatto ("silk hat", obviously), but it refers to what is in English invariably called a "top hat". Transliteration vs translation. In a poem like this, it's debatable which approach is better.
  • "City cafés" vs "street cafes": The original word for city/street is 街, which can mean either. Again, I went for euphony.
  • "Wheat-colored" vs "brown": The original is mugi-iro, 麦色, quite obviously "wheat-colored". My switch to "brown" robs the poem of something—possibly something quite important given the theme of bread. (That "bread" in the final line is even spelt 麺飽, using kanji that emphasize bread's wheat-flour provenance.) Here's what happened: the phrase "in brown fluid drown a gang of men" came to me at once and I loved it too much to abandon. I still love it, in fact, so much so that I suspect it may be one of those darlings writers are constantly being urged to kill.
  • "Madam with the monocle" vs "La madame du monocle": This is total whimsy on my part. The original is monokuru no madamu (モノクルのマダム), and the katakana plus the fact that both words came (originally) from French made me decide to throw it all the way back to the Gallic tongue. This is probably one of those decisions I'll come to regret like a college Hallowe'en costume.
  • "Hurls it at them" vs "throws it true": Nakayasu has the better verb, I end the sentence stronger. The original is nagetsukeru (投げつける), with target unstated. I think it's probably safe to presume, as Nakayasu does, that the bread was thrown at the men drowning in the spheres, but I wanted to avoid that assumption.

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Vilhelm S:

Sorry for being such a philistine, but, but, but... what does it MEAN?? :)


Well I think it's pretty clear what the message is: never give bread to a woman wearing a monocle.

Interesting to see the kanji 麺飽.. this is the Chiense word for bread. I can't find it in any J dictionaries either, how is this read?


R: My dictionaries tell me you can read it either "pan" or "mempō".

Vilhelm: It may be that I'm missing something, but I don't think it has meaning. It's just a word-object to be enjoyed.

language hat:

I don't like the phrase "brown fluid" for some reason, so I'd prefer "wheat-colored." But that's just me. Typo alert: you need to delete a word in "tears up the her bread," and "supercedes" should be supersedes.


Thanks! You're very kind to assume that "supercedes" was a typo.

(You can't elaborate on the problem with "brown fluid"? Is it just the sound?)

language hat:

My speculation would be that it brings to mind a certain unpleasant sort of bodily effluent, but I'm not sure. I don't think it's the sound, and as I say, it's just me. Pay it no mind.

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