Sunday, May 17, 2015

"The Magical Art of Translation" at the Japan Society

On May 7, the Japan Society sponsored a public forum on Murakami Haruki, translation, and writing. Held at the Society's offices in New York City, the discussion included Jay Rubin (scholar, Murakami translator, and recently a novelist, with a novel titled The Sun Gods, coming out on June 2 from Chin Music Press), Ted Goossen (scholar, critic, and Murakami translator), Motoyuki Shibata (renowned translator of American literature and the editor of Monkey Business), Aoko Matsuda (writer and translator), and Satoshi Kitamura (writer and illustrator). Roland Kelts moderated. 

Participants shared their opinions about Murakami, the process of translation, and their thoughts on reasons behind Murakami's popularity. Matsuda said that she considered translating an activity very similar to writing and not in any way inferior. Kitamura suggested that illustrating was similar to translation, a view seconded by Shibata, who believed, for example, that his translation of Stuart Dybek's poem did not manage to fully transmit the spirit of the original until it was accompanied by Kitamura's illustrations. (This made me think again about The Strange Library and all the different illustrations discussed last month in this blog.) Ted Goossen talked about his first phone conversation with Murakami and Jay Rubin about the shift from translating to novel writing. 

Jay Rubin also said the following about translation: "[T]here is a large part of it that you can't really explain. It happens as you wrestle with one language, trying to get it into the other language. And you're not just taking grammatical forms from one language and mechanically transferring them into the other. There's something unusual going on. There is something..." [Roland Kelts: "It is creative. I mean, isn't it?"] "It is not creative." [Roland Kelts: "It is not creative?"] "No, it is not. People try to use that term about translation. I don't believe you can use it."

Hmm.... If we can say that translation is an art -- which Jay acknowledged a minute earlier in the interview -- does that not mean it involves being creative? 

Here is the video of the discussion:

The Magical Art of Translation: From Haruki Murakami to Japan's Latest Storytellers

This event was part of an annual series of literary events which have been organized for the last five years around the publication of the English version of Monkey Business, a literary magazine published by Shibata Motoyuki (the Japanese original was later renamed as simply Monkey).

In fact, a number of earlier discussions in this series can be found on YouTube. Here is a link to a fascinating one from 2012, featuring Shibata, Goossen, Kawakami Hiromi, and Rebecca Brown, among others:

No comments:

Post a Comment