Sokuseki Bijin no Tsukurikata: Akiko Higashimura

SokusekiBijin_HIgashimura

It’s still Women in Translation month! So many women, so much translation! Where to find the time to read all the great books people are suggesting?? I probably never will, given that the shelf of unread books at my house has spread like some terrible fungus out onto an end table, which is now stacked dangerously high with books that I have acquired for my brain to battle one of these days. I love the fact that I get to read books for a living, but sometimes, I look at the spreading encroachment of paper crawling out of the bookshelf and across my apartment, and I despair. There will never be enough time to read them all. This is how I face the fact of my own mortality: by slowly coming to truly understand that I will never read all the books, that there will always be unread books on that shelf/end table/floor/everywhere.

But for the time being at least, my brain and I are very much alive! And that means we continue to beat back the tide of unread books, undaunted! And in keeping with the “women who have been translated into English, but I am reading a nontranslated book” theme we started last week with Sakuraba’s Jigokuyuki, my brain thought it might be nice to take a look at shojo/josei manga star Akiko Higashimura, author of the hilarious and beautiful Princess Jellyfish and Tokyo Tarareba Girls. Those series are both being translated into English, and you should definitely pick them up. You will laugh, you will cry, you will feel some major feels. You could also watch the drama they made of Tokyo Tarareba Girls earlier this year. It’s pretty great! Continue reading

Jigokuyuki: Kazuki Sakuraba

Jigokuyuki_Sakuraba

It’s Women in Translation month! I am a woman in translation! I translate women authors! So basically, this month is my time to shine! Also: buy my books! There are a lot to choose from! But if you’re looking for some other translations to while away the lazy days of August with, you have so many options! While the majority of authors translated into English are men, the situation is getting better for us of the lady persuasion. Mostly because we keep yelling about it with things like WIT month. So come! Yell with me today, readers! Raise your voice for books by women from other lands translated into English! (Bonus points if the translator is also a woman!)

My brain tends to battle mostly books in Japanese here, but we have tackled more than a few translated works, and so many of them by women! Take a peek and find a new book to love. Or you can check out this great list from the always amazing Words Without Borders. How about a nonstop feed of lady greatness on Twitter? Maybe Tumblr is more your jam? Or do you like your info old school in the form of a blog post? Everyone everywhere is talking about women in translation this month! And my brain wants to be part of the fun! Continue reading

The Vegetarian: Han Kang (Translated by Deborah Smith)

812I+tp4jcLEven when I was little, I apparently understood that writing would never pay the bills. I went through a variety of day jobs, answers to the “what do you want to be when you grow up” question. The firm conviction that I would eventually be a writer was unshakeable, but on the side, I was also going to be a vegetarian veterinarian, among other career choices (including a ballerina briefly, until I started lessons with the mean-spirited Miss Pam). The two were inextricably linked in my young mind. You could not be a veterinarian without being a vegetarian, and vice versa. But then I found out that being a veterinarian meant that I would have to hurt animals (giving them shots, surgery, etc.), and I knew that I could never be a veterinarian. But the dream of vegetarianism lived on. I hassled my parents about it constantly, until they promised that I could stop eating meat when I turned thirteen. I think they thought I would lose interest. But I was laser focussed on never eating another animal, and so on my thirteenth birthday, I declared myself free of the horrible burden of meaty dinnertimes, and I never looked back.

But after moving to Japan, my own vegetarianism became an unexpected issue. This was back in the nascent days of the internet, so the information I had about my new country of residence was basically limited to whatever was in the Lonely Japan guide my friend gave me as a going-away present. And they were not super veg-focussed. So I was surprised to discover how vegetarian-unfriendly this country was (and still is). I was forced into a constant state of negotiation, just by living here. One of the first things I learned to say in Japanese was, “Does that have meat in it?” Even today, when the concept of vegetarianism is so much more widespread (albeit as a lady diet trend [ask to hear my rant about how even my choice of diet is gendered!]), I am still negotiating with servers, insisting on no ham on a vegetable pizza, asking for a shrimp-free tempura platter. (Although my language skills have advanced considerably, and I am more certain that the negotiations will result in food I can eat.) So naturally, given the amount of time I have spent thinking about this word, the title of the Korean novel The Vegetarian alone was enough to pique my interest.

As is my wont, I ignored the jacket copy and bought the book based on the title and the cover. The deeply disturbing cover. And as usual, the contents did not betray my snap judgement. (Seriously. Judge those books by their covers, people.) Continue reading

Otomen: Aya Kanno

Otomen_cvr_01_FINAL.inddTCAF! It happened! I’m not dead! All three are cause for celebration. As is the fact that I was able to find my way back to my own personality after an intense week of interpreting. Day after day of speaking for someone else tends to bring about an identity crisis in me. I have all these conversations with so many people, but I am not actually a participant in any of them; I’m just a voice. I always find this middle ground between two languages and two people to be such a strange place, especially given that the conversations I assist literally pass right through me. I generally have no recollection of anything anyone said. I’m too busy talking for everyone in the room to spend any energy on remembering what anyone said.

Which is why I’m glad I got to spend some time outside the interpreting context with TCAF guest and Otomen author Aya Kanno. At dinners, parties, a trip to Niagara, all the many extra-festivular events we took part in, I got the chance to have a tiny bit of self and hear her considered ideas on her work and gender and her growth as an artist, on top of the usual casual conversation you might expect to have at such extra-festivular events. One particularly interesting discussion we fell into was in relation to translation and the usage of words. I’m translating her latest work Requiem of the Rose King (which I will not be discussing here, given the obvious conflict of interest, but it is pretty amazeballs and I would totally recommend it if only for the adorable boar), and it was the first time she had had the chance to talk with a translator of her work (and my second time being able to talk with the author of a work I translated) (est em, in case you’re wondering). So we spent our time in the green room before panels talking about words and Shakespeare and the nuances of translation. Continue reading

Comet in Moominland: Tove Jansson

Comet in Moominland

I love Moomin! Let’s get that out of the way, so we all know how totally not impartial I am when it comes to the Moomin books. Moomin helped me learn Swedish. When I lived in Sweden, I used to walk home from school and stop at the grocery store along the way to pick up some Dumle—the greatest candy ever created and why won’t they export it to Canada—and the newest Moomin comic. And then I would head home and get sugared up on Dumle and all the adventures in Moominland. I think that was my first experience with comics as a language learning tool, but it’s stuck with me. When I used to tutor French and Japanese, I was always pushing comics on my students as a fun way to pull their language skills up. And when I was first learning Japanese, I pushed myself into literacy with stuff like Chibi Maruko-chan (furigana is your best friend, Japanese learners!). So you could say that Moomin helped me learn Japanese too.

My love of all things Moomin—especially Little My—is well known among my friends, and last year seemed to be the year the copyright on Moomin expired or something because there were Moomin goods everywhere I looked when I was in Japan, so naturally, my last birthday was the Moomin birthday. I was delighted to receive a magnificent array of goods, including a mug which came in a box that was just as perfect and worthy of keeping as the mug. So well done, Moomin merchandise designers. You are making even packaging I want to keep on my shelf. Continue reading

No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!: Nico Tanigawa (Trans. Krista Shipley, Karie Shipley)

No MatterSo that is officially the longest title of any manga I have ever read or any book my brain has battled in these pages. And this is also the only manga I’ve ever read only in English on these pages and possibly the only manga I’ve read only in English since I was a young monkey who had never been to Japan and actually wasn’t particularly interested in changing that. I only cared about Sailor Moon. The fact that she was Japanese was incidental and not all that interesting to me at the time. (Now, of course, I have many a thought about how connected Sailor Moon is in fact with Japanese culture and society, thoughts my brain and I may share one day!)

But if I hadn’t know that this was a Japanese comic, I would have assumed it was by an American (albeit with an unhealthy and obsessive interest in Japanese pop culture) because the English is so great! Honestly, this thing is so well written and natural sounding. Characters say things that actual native English-speaking humans would say, complete with the most effortless use of slang I’ve seen in ages. As I already mentioned, I haven’t read the Japanese, so I can’t testify to the accuracy, but this translation works as a final English text, and I would definitely recommend it to any baby translators out there looking to improve their game. The editor is not listed in the credits, as seems to be the norm for Yen Press books, but whoever you are, mystery editor, I extend my high fives for this work to you as well. As Editor Appreciation Day showed us so recently, our editors are who make our work great. Basically, everyone involved in the production of the English version of this manga, keep doing what you’re doing! (And you know, disclaimer: although I had nothing to do with this particular series, I do translate stuff for Yen Press, most recently this.) Continue reading

Granta Japan: Yuka Igarashi (ed.)

 

Granta Japan

Even if I wasn’t the target audience for this Japan-centered edition of the British lit magazine Granta, being a Japanese translator and a lover of Japanese literature, I would still have picked up this issue, if only because of the great cover. I am such a sucker for great covers. And Granta often has great covers, which often make me pick them up at the bookstore, so hat tip to their art department. Nice work, gang!

Although I had assumed, looking at the cover in the bookstore (high fives to local indie Book City for generally being awesome!), that it featured a hunk of some mineral photographed so as to be reminiscent of Fuji, the only thing you ever need to signal that we are talking about Japan now (a symbol used to hilarious effect in the new Godzilla, but that is not a discussion for right now. Corner me at a bar one of these days and I will tell you these thoughts I have), this fake Fuji is actually part of a series of photographs called Primal Mountain by Yuji Hamada featured in the magazine. Spurred by the deluge of unreliable information they were getting in Japan in the days after the earthquake disaster of 2011, Hamada began photographing these fake mountains of tin foil up against the very real Tokyo sky.  Continue reading