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Re(3):Iggys with obsolete cultural Kawabatas
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[QUOTE] Mishima is a terrible writer. [/QUOTE] Oh, I don't mean to give Mishima more than his due, but he was the most obvious choice beyond the usual German culprits to be both "an important writer" and "completely crazy/possessing vile ideas." If we stray away from Spoon's original topic and onto good writers, then yes, yes, Kawabata is great! His politics were also closer to the right place, as I recall. Snow Country is marvelous, as is the short and bittersweet Dancing Girl of Izu. I also don't know anything about the English versions, but Iggy's certainly right about the extraordinary literary talent needed by a translator here. Frankly, very little goes on in these works, but the atmosphere and descriptions are marvelous. Snow Country's juxtaposition of the translucent reflection of a beautiful woman in the train seat in front of you with distant lights seen through the same window is a beautiful image I recall [i]constantly[/i] when on trains. Speaking of this scene, I once read an interesting Japanese essay on things lost in translation which made a good observation via the iconic first line from Snow Country to show how language structures can alter the way most readers imagine a scene. The line is 「国境の長いトンネルを抜けるとそこは雪國であった」, "after passing through the long border tunnel, it was snow country." This sounds a little odd in English without the subject, so apparently some translations say "after the train passed through the long border tunnel, it was snow country," or even, "the train passed through the long border tunnel into snow country." However, this pulls the attention to the train, and a good number of English readers might imagine the view from [i]outside[/i] the train, perhaps even an aerial shot. In the original, the reader is likely to imagine the scene from [i]inside[/i] the train. There is nothing mystical or unfathomably subtle about Japanese here other than the fact that the subject is unneccessary, but the result could be two different tendencies among readers in different languages! It's a simple illustration of how incredibly difficult translation can be for literature, especially when the work in question is more concerned with imagery and atmosphere than any particularly major events.
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