A voice from Japan

Edward Lipsett at Kurodahan Press on foreign authors being published in English:

Does anyone really know or care what the original language of a work was? There are actually quite a number of works translated from other languages into English, and in many cases (especially in the US) it doesn’t actually say anywhere whether it was translated or not. The translator’s name may be listed once inside, in small print, or not at all. As someone who has made a living out of translation for over 25 years, this is rather distressing, to say the least…

[…]

The problem persists, of course. Many American publishers (and possibly others; I mention American because that’s what I’m familiar with) believe that the buying public will be put off by books translated from other languages, and hide the translator’s name on the copyright page in the fine print. Kawabata Yasunari won the Nobel Prize in Literature, but I’m confident that a lot of the glory was earned by his translator, and if you don’t know who that was perhaps you’re reading the wrong blog.

I think the situation is changing slowly, though. Every so often an author comes along who combines excellent writing with an in-the-footlights homeland. One example is Zoran Zivkovic of Serbia. I happened to pick up a copy of his Seven Touches of Music, translated by Alice Copple-Tosic, and absolutely fell in love. The man is a genius, and apparently I am not the only one to notice, because a variety of his material is being published here and there in English. I was intrigued to note that the English translation mentions, for example “Mrs. Martha,” and wonder if Martha is her first name, last name, a name made up by the translator, or what… In Japan I am commonly called “Edward-san,” apparently because foreigners in Japan are always named in that fashion without regard for surnames or the fact that it seems to violate Japanese custom. Does the same custom exist in Serbia?

Link to the full entry.

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