Thursday, 10 May 2018

Heaven's Wind/Amatsukaze - a dual language anthology

Recently published by Japan Society, Heaven's Wind/Amatsukaze is a dual language anthology presenting stories from five women writers all of whom have been awarded prestigious prizes and awards. The book is edited and translated by Angus Turvill who at the end of the collection gives an insightful commentary on his approaches to translating the stories, which also casts a broader look at some of the main points of concern for those translating from Japanese into English, some of these include sentence structure, obtaining flow and fluidity and also of the wider context of sentence and word choices. The commentary is made up of a 'spot the difference' where over 10 points Turvill examines, amongst other concerns; nouns, tenses, cultural references, points of perspective in subject/objects, which provokes the reader in perhaps rethinking of how translations appear when presented.

The stories themselves cover half a century in terms of their first appearance, the earliest one is from Natsuko Kuroda - Ball from 1963, which relates a neighbourhood ball game, with misfit Tamie the main protagonist, a subtle piece on ostracisation. In terms of dynamics perhaps the stand out story for me is from Mitsuyo Kakuta - The Child Over There which was the title story from a collection that was awarded the Izumi Kyoka Prize back in 2012, it's an interesting blend of what seems like a local superstition and at times the fantastical supernatural, at the same time the story explores the narrator's feelings of grief after loosing a child to still birth and her pursuit of locating the baby's spirit/soul to a seaside cave. A story that reminded me to some extent of a scenario of a Mishima story, although perhaps not quite as an extreme conclusion is Summer Blanket by Kaori Ekuni which was initially published in an award winning collection from 2002 - Michiko is an older woman who lives alone by the sea with her dog Marius, aspects of her history are slowly revealed, past relationships and of her parents. Added to this are visits from a young couple, Mayuki and Omori, harboured jealousies are touched upon, youth over financial independence, there's a feeling of something Salinger-esque perhaps as the story ends with Michiko and Omori huddled under the blanket. Also in the collection are the stories The Otter by Kuniko Mukoda and Planting by Aoko Matsuda.

Heaven's Wind is an absorbing and valuable collection in a number of ways and levels, as an excellent introduction to the featured authors, whose works it provokes to explore further and additionally along with Angus Turvill's insightful commentary on the translations, the book offers a fascinating perspective on some of the aspects going on 'behind the scenes' in the translation process, and of course the stories are presented in dual languages for readers of each or both. Many thanks to Japan Society for providing a reading copy.         

Heaven's Wind at Japan Society

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