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Re(4):Books with obsolete cultural norms
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[QUOTE]Of those other authors you've listed, are there good quality English translations of them? [/QUOTE] I wouldn't be able to tell about the English translations, but at least for novel titles, my favourite Tanizaki book is called "Quicksand" in English according to Wikipedia. It's a strange title, so I'm not sure what the translator was thinking... The Japanese title is 卍, "Manji", the Buddhist symbol. What's great about the title is that it's not the meaning that's relevant to the book, it's the actual ideogram. It's difficult to explain without spoilers, but let's just say the power dynamics are split in 4, each corner pulling in their direction, and if you were to "draw" the plot of the novel you'd end up with something really similar to "卍". There's four chapters in the book, each one leading you in a certain, very clear direction, only for the following chapter to bring you back to the beginning, turn 90º, and lead you to an entirely different place. Some people write thousands and thousands of pages to write their masterpiece. Tanizaki wrote one character on the front page of a book, and knew that nothing would ever surpass it. For Souseki, I guess "I am a cat" is his most famous and easiest to read (especially in translation with all the hard kanjis laid out). For Kawabata, it's a bit more difficult to pick one book, as he really feels like an author whose entire body of work is coherent within itself. On the top of my head, I liked The Dancing Girl of Izu, Snow Country, The House of the Sleeping Beauties, and The Master of Go (English titles courtesy of Wikipedia). One of the things I find fascinating in Kawabata is the level of fetishism for minor things some of his characters reach. The same settings in a western novel would end up extremely filthy, with absolutely unacceptable things happening to underage girls, but in a Japanese setting, you know that when an old guy stares at a sleeping girl's feet, nothing "happens" in the western sense, while everything "happens" regardless. The fetishism reaches almost abstract levels sometimes. I think Kawabata is probably the most important writer to read in order to understand a very specific corner of the Japanese psyche, an angle that's the most difficult to comprehend for most western people. It's also an absolutely incredible stylist (can you say that in English for writers?), so he's probably the one that requires a great translator the most. A flat translation of Kawabata would be the drabbest thing I could imagine.
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