Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dutch Angle on Names in Tsukuru Tazaki

James Westerhoven, the Dutch translator, offered his very interesting take on names in Tsukuru Tazaki. 

The names appear in my translation as: “de Rooie” (Red — with the note that “rooie” is colloquial Dutch for “rode”), “de Blauwe” (Blue”) for the boys, en “Witje” (White) en “Zwartje” (Black) for the girls. For the girls I went with nicknames without the article “de” but with the diminutive/endearment suffix “-je.” This ending  is used to indicate that things are small, and can be used for males and females. ‘Jongen’ (young one) boy. ‘Jongetje’ small boy. But because Shiro and Kuro are girls, it seemed more natural to give them names ending in -je than names with ‘de’ (article ‘the’).

My translation of the passage quoted in Ika's post in Swedish and German is: “De twee jongens heetten Akamatsu en ┼îmi — Rodeden en Blauwezee —, en de twee meisjes Shirane en Kurono — Wittewortel en Zwarteveld. Alleen de naam Tazaki — Veelpunt — had niets met kleuren te maken.” 

And a bit later in the same paragraph: “De anderen spraken elkaar meteen aan met de kleur van hun naam, alsof het de natuurlijkste zaak van de wereld was: als ‘Blauwe’ en Rooie’, ‘Witje’ en ‘Zwartje’. Alleen hij bleef gewoon Tsukuru’.”

Now this is very much a cultural thing. I went to boarding school in Holland, and every boy had a nickname. My Dutch editors never questioned the names I chose for the characters but went along immediately. However, what works great in Dutch need not necessarily work in other languages. Someone with red hair would probably be called “Ginger” or “Carrot Top” in English rather than “Red”, and I’m not certain that “Whitey” and “Blackie” would be nicknames given to girls, but in this context they might work. We’ll leave that to the English translator. All I’m saying is that I was really fortunate Dutch culture allowed me to translate these nicknames literally.

When they meet in Finland, Eri asks Tsukuru to stop calling her by her nickname. To the non-Japanese reader, “Kuro” is a neutral name, but if you translate it, it could sound almost offensive. In Japanese, Kuro also sounds like a dog’s name. In fact, I once asked Murakami if that was his intention, but he said the thought had not crossed his mind. “Zwartje” in Dutch and “Blackie” in English also can be used for dogs. No wonder Eri dislikes the name, what with all the other ballast of the past.

I tried a version with the names translated as straight colors: Red, Blue, Black, and White. It sounded horrible — in Dutch, that is. Maybe it also sounds horrible in Norwegian, and that is why Ika’s co-translator objects. But you get used to everything. I would still translate the names, as Yukiko Duke and Anna Zielinska-Elliott did.

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