William F. Sibley Memorial Translation Prize Winners

The University of Chicago's Center for East Asian Studies has announced the William F. Sibley Memorial Translation Prize Winners for 2010! The winners and recipients of our congratulations are:

  • Paul S. Atkins, for "Hara-kiri of a Woman at Nagamachi," his translation of Chikamatsu's Nagamachi onna-harakiri 長町女腹切;
  • Christina Yi, for her translation of Kim Saryang 金史良's Tenma 天馬 (a difficult-to-translate word literally meaning "heaven-horse" and applied to mythical and/or marvelous horses in various contexts);
  • Robert Tierney, for his translation of three south-seas colonial short stories by Nakajima Atsushi 中島敦; and
  • Samuel Perry (no relation, I presume) for "White and Purple," his translation of Sata Ineko 佐多稲子's Shiro to Murasaki 白と紫.

All translations are online for perusal and kibitzing, which is a most generous and pleasing way to go about things. Aozora Bunko has the originals of the Nakajima and Kim pieces, too.



Sorry, folks! I was in Australia. Things haven't changed much there, although there is one Japanese-style pastry shop (walk around the course piling things on a tray and then pay at the end) up near Flinders Street Station now.

Anyway, in unrelated news, I found this: Crumpled Leaves from Old Japan, a 1922 book(let) of Man'yōshū translations by Dan F. Waugh and Frank Prentice Rand (the former credited as translator, the latter as "do[er] into English verse" and sole copyright holder).

These are facing translations with the originals included "to suggest, if possible, the melodic beauty and the airy lightness of the Japanese." Here's a source-and-translation pair that conveys the general feeling:

hito mina wa/ ima wa nagashi to/ take to iedo/ kimi ga mishi kami/ midaretari tomo

My hair is so long
They have told me to bind it;
But 'twas down when you saw it,
And down you shall find it;
Though it snarl, I'll not mind it.

(This is Poem #124, in book 2, by Sono no Ikuha no Me 園生羽女, for those keeping track at home.)

I quite like the translation as a piece of light verse, but I think it's fair to say that it doesn't convey much of the Man'yōshū spirit as it has been understood since Keichū 契沖 & co. got their hands on it: i.e., a spirit of directness and clarity, whereby phenomena (external and in-) are represented without artifice or pretension. You could argue about whether rhyming counts as artifice/pretension (the original is in standard tanka form, after all), but words as twee as "'twas" are surely out.

More importantly, though, Rand's pat and orderly structure is nothing like the appropriately tangled and unbound, almost torrid nature of the original. A more direct translation might go something like this:

People all say/ "It is too long now,"/ "Bind it up," they say, but/ The hair you saw/ Though tangled it be...

... with an implied "... I shall never bind" or "... How can I bind it?" to follow. Note that (a) the object of everyone's criticism is not revealed as hair until the halfway point of the poem; (b) the criticism itself is expressed as two separate quoted sentences, in a sort of impressionism-of-the-crowd way; (c) the resolution is left unstated and indeed partly unclear, in opposition to both Rand's version (and indeed later Japanese poetry where what is unstated is nevertheless laboriously signposted, which is partly why Shiki hated it so much).

I mean, what Rand's done isn't as bad as, say, appending to "Ozymandias" a final line like "Alas! We'll be forgotten too, some day!", but it's a change in the same direction. You might enjoy the extra rhyme-kick, but if you knew the effect of the original you would grieve at the loss. (Actually, I see from Wikipedia that Horace Smith's version of "Ozymandias" does something very like this; I put it to you that this is one of the reasons that Shelley's is the poem we all remember.)


Volunteering and the Big Three

Daniel at How to Japonese spent the past couple of weeks volunteering with All Hands Volunteers's Project Tohoku, and blogging about it too. Start here!

In totally unrelated news, I was finally skimming through my ages-old secondhand copy of Nicholas Coleridge's The Fashion Conspiracy and I came across this:

The Okura [Hotel] in Minato-ku bills itself as the second-best hotel in the world. No indication is given as t the first-best hotel, or whether the Okura has designs on that title. Probably not, since the 'second-best' plaudit has an air of permanence on the hotel's stationery and boxes of matches strategically displayed across the lobby.

A Google search turned up this JETRO report, which is similarly cryptic:

The hotels that have been leading the domestic luxury hotel market are known as the "Big Three." They are the Imperial Hotel, the Hotel Okura, and the Hotel New Otani. The Hotel Okura was once highly appraised by Institutional Investor, a magazine specializing in finance and investment, which ranked it second best hotel.

Huh. So, still not very clear. The Japanese version is clearer:

国内のラグジュアリーホテルマーケットを牽引してきたのは、帝国ホテル、ホテルオークラ、ホテルニューオータニの「御三家」と呼ばれる国内系ホテルである。ホテルオークラは、米国の金融投資専門誌「Institutional Investor」のベストホテルランキングで世界 2 位の座を獲得する高い評価を受けたこともあった。

The hotels that are leading the domestic luxury hotel market are the local hotels known as the "Three Houses": the Imperial Hotel, the Hotel Okura, and the Hotel New Otani. The Hotel Okura was once highly appraised by US finance and investment magazine Institutional Investor, which ranked it second best hotel in the world.

Ah, in the world. We also learn that "Big Three" was an idiomatic translation of go-sanke 御三家, "Three Houses," a term coined in the Edo period referring to three important branches of the Tokugawa family tree.

(The Okura Hotel themselves still mention this second-place ranking in their online history, too.)


Abe Kōblogging

Here's a small (and already defunct?) gem I stumbled on the other day: sounds + projections + words + bodies, subtitled "A blog. Mostly about Abe Kōbō, his plays, and me reading his plays." Great reading, and tough questions are raised:

Did Abe eat bugs as a child? We know, at least, that he developed a serious interest in insect collecting as a young man living in Manchuria, becoming somewhat of an "amateur entomologist" (Rosenstein 114).

Wait, does this mean that Nabakov Nabokov ate butterflies?