Sunday, October 1, 2017

Visualizing Translation: Reflections on Translating Killing Commendatore

I have been working on the Polish translation of Killing Commendatore for a few months now. This time I have decided to try an experiment: instead of reading the entire book beforehand, and then starting on the translation, I am reading and translating simultaneously, sentence by sentence.  It has been an interesting experience. I have had to go back a lot and fix things, as they became clear, but this approach made it possible to translate without knowing what is coming on the next page, which has been novel and exciting. It has also merged the act of reading with the act of translating, so I am able to experience the book in a way close to a normal reader.  

In the course of translating, every now and then I look up things on the Internet, wondering about how other readers have experienced the book or imagined its characters, and seeing if there is anything there that might be useful to me as I work. One of the characters I wondered about is Wataru Menshiki, a mysterious rich businessmen, whose portrait the protagonist undertakes to paint. According to the description in the book, he has regular features, a broad mouth, and completely white hair, despite being only 54.  Surfing the blogosphere, I discovered a tweet by Momoyakko, who felt that that this description of Menshiki would make him the spitting image of the famous composer, Ryūichi Sakamoto, shown here:

Another person (posting on the blog https://komyushou.com/ for people struggling with social interactions) first imagined Menshiki as the singer and actor Yūya Uchida, but later (maybe after having read about Menshiki's broad mouth and pointy ears), decided to draw an original portrait of Menshiki himself or herself. S/he even included a table listing all of Menshiki's characteristic features and traced the process of the portrait's creation, which I will write about in a different post.
You can see the whole post here:
https://komyushou.com/mennshiki-wataru


image source: ototoy.jp/news/73317



















The title of the novel, Killing Commendatore, comes from a painting the protagonist finds in the house he has rented.  The scene appearing in the painting -- the killing of Commendatore -- is, as I have suggested in an earlier post,  inspired by Don Giovanni, but the painting is executed in Japanese style (Nihonga) and portrays figures from the Asuka period (538-710).

Here is how one person (who does not like Murakami's writing but took part in a group reading of the novel with friends) imagined it. This person admitted that s/he didn't know what a nihonga would look like. (http://blog.goo.ne.jp/travel_diary/e/0257fc2a6310a42bbcc3e1140d29a7d7)



Here is another blog author's rendition (http://arukublrog.seesaa.net/article/447390663.html)



While I have found the different images of Menshiki helpful (I had also thought of Ryūichi Sakamoto), the two drawings of the painting, while fun, were not really useful in terms of helping with translation.

For those who like graphic novels, here is a rebus-like rendition of the book. The title translates as "How to understand Killing Commendatore in one minute."
http://jin115.com/archives/52167620.html



Some additional thoughts on visualization: When translating a character, I often imagine a person among my relatives or friends whom the character reminds me of -- this helps me create the Polish version of the character, especially in terms of endowing him or her with certain speech habits. Doing things this way can, I believe, help make the character more real. Of course, one cannot overdo it, so the model won't recognize himself or herself in the translation.

Murakami writes about this same approach -- obviously, in terms of writing, not translating -- in Chapter 9 of a book of essays on writing, Novelist As a Vocation, where he says that he occasionally uses some features of people he knows, but doesn't usually create characters fully based on real people.  Incidentally, these essays have just appeared in my translation in Polish; the book is not available in English yet.

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