Eternal Love Unrequited


Well, the cherry blossoms are all gone. The weather is beautiful, a bit hot in the sunlight and a bit cool in the shade. It would probablly be a lot nicer if I could go sit under a tree somewhere and read a book, but unfortunately they won't take this chain off my leg and I have to sit here at my desk instead.

This is Golden Week, a sort of spring break that just evolved in Japan from a conglomeration of Boys Day (May 5), Constitution Memorial Day (May 3), and the Emperor's Birthday (April 29, although that was the last emperor, the Shōwa Emperor, they were talking about), with a few fill-in-the-blank days off in between. Most of Japan now takes this time off, and with the recent depression a lot of manufacturers are giving their employees two or three weeks off.

The depression is having its effect on us as well, and while we are not at all in trouble, we will have to watch our commitments to future expenditures. At the same time we are trying to develop some new payment plans for authors and translators that will help get more money into their wallets earlier. That same money, of course, will be coming out of our wallets, which is why we'll have to be careful what we promise.

There will be no effect on books in progress, but we may have to cut back on signing new books, depending on the terms of various contracts. Under the new contract terms we think will be accepted by authors and translators, it looks like we won't be able to publish more than two, possibly three, titles a year. Until the economic situation improves, of course.

Moving along, Stephen Carter was kind enough to send me this link on translating science fiction from English into something else, discussing (among other things) the problems encountered in translating 'uplift,' as used in David Brin's outstanding series.

Author Carol Pinchefsky has some illuminating lines, such as mentioning that many authors "line their books with poetry, which are minefields for translators to trip. Poetry is often so subjective that many poor translations exist — if it exists at all."
This is certainly a major issue... there are any number of ways a translator can be in for a rough time if the author uses poetry. If the original poem has never been translated into the source language that is by far the easiest, because then the translator can translate to match both the poem's original intent and interpretation by the author (true, this may be closer to creative writing than translation as far as the peom is concerned, but anyway...). But suppose the poem was translated into the target language incorrectly? Or suppose there are six different translations in the target language, all with different nuances? Or, worst case, suppose that the author has himself (or herself, of course) is using a poem translated from some other language into the source language, and that translation was incorrect?

This latter case in particular is uncomfortably common when translating from Japanese to English. It may be common in other language pairs as well, for that matter... it could be universal. The problem runs thus: The English-speaking author uses a quote to suggest, oh, "Eternal love," selecting a splendid quote from a collection of 16th-century poety translated from Slobbovian.
The same poem has already been translated directly from Slobbovian into Japanese, and the translation clearly indicates that the love is not "eternal love," but "unrequited love."
Somebody has made a mistranslation, or perhaps each translation is correct but incomplete.

The translator who has to put this into Japanese has a problem... To re-translate from the English, keeping that meaning? To use the existing, approved Japanese translation, with a possibly different meaning? Or for the truly adventurous, to translate from the original Slobbovian more carefully and use that?

As with most translation problems, there is no good solution, only acceptable alternatives. The translator has to make a decision based on the needs of each instance. In theory the translator is supposed to translate what the author said, but if the author uses a quotation or a word incorrectly, there is a real problem.

I remember one book I read a long time ago which used Japanese names for a lot of things, and while most of them were not unreasonable, it named a giant tank (I think it was) a 'kyodaina.' In English kyodaina looks suitably foreign and Japanese, but in Japanese it is merely an adjective meaning 'gigantic.' Needless to say, it is unlikely anything would be given an adjectival name. So how would you translate that into Japanese? I suppose, as Kobayashi-san suggests for 'uplift' in the article I mentioned above, using katakana is the best solution, but it grates nonetheless.

One note of good cheer... the content of the next anthology of Japanese SF is selected, and I'll be contracting rights holders to try to get the ball rolling on that. Almost all of the material will be from recently-published Japanese stories, and almost all of it will be new translations. I've left in a few older stories that deserve to be published, and am considering republishing a very good English translation that has been unjustly forgotten.

Stories for the Chinese SF anthology are also pretty much selected... that is being developed in conjunction with SF World, the biggest SF magazine in China and perhaps the world.

Hopefully we'll be able to make announcements on these books within a few months, and begin the search for translators. Hope to talk to you again then!


Kurodahan Press

Kurodahan Press
2305-9 Yunomae Machi
Kuma-gun, Kumamoto
868-0600 JAPAN