Sunday, September 19, 2010

translators who blazed the trail (2)

In 1991, OMF Books published an English translation of Yuki no Arubamu under the title A Heart of Winter. The translators were Mark Caprio and Clyde Moneyhun. They did a great job of it-- the translation makes for smooth reading. It is a slim, pocket-sized book, easy to give as a gift or carry around and read in spare moments. The copy on the back cover says: "This novel captures the depth of hurt and need for healing and wholeness... [it] illustrates, without maddening pat answers, that the bitter pain of abandonment, ridicule, betrayal and revenge need not be the final experience... Above all, this is a story of hope!"

Two months ago, one of my several attempts to contact the translators by email finally reached Mark Caprio, and I was able to ask him about his experience translating this book. This is part of what he shared with me:

We started out just looking for something to translate. Clyde and I had met at an Aikido dojo in Nagoya. By coincidence we had both studied at the University of Arizona in Tucson a few years prior to our meeting. I was an avid reader of Japanese literature at the time, making my way through Kawabata, Endo, Sono Ayako, and others.

Clyde was rather new to Japan, arriving after having completed studies in creative writing. I stumbled on Miura Ayako through a Brother George Pope. We were taught at Nanzan University and often talked over lunch about different things. I believe he mentioned Miura to me. Since he could not read Japanese I said that I would see if I could translate one of her books. Both Clyde and I were after the experience of completing a translation anyway.
I remember that it was Hyoten that I first read. The story moved me to the extent of wanting to translate it. I wrote Miura asking for permission and she answered by saying that it was already being translated. Flattered that she had even answered my letter, I decided to press my luck and ask her to suggest a book to translate. She recommended her latest book, Yuki no Arubamu [album of snow]. I read it and talked with Clyde about it. We decided to translate it.

Our division of labor broke down as follows: I put her words into English, Clyde molded my crude English into prose, and I checked to ensure that his writing honored Miura's original Japanese. We had been given us a deadline--which I believe we just missed--and a contact in Tokyo who would check our work. She also had a second person, a native English speaker, in Sapporo read our manuscript.
After passing the above checks we had to find a publisher. We tried Tuttle [but they turned it down] . Miura's Tokyo agent then recommended we try OMF based in Singapore [who agreed to publish it].

Unfortunately, A Heart of Winter is out of print. But like other out-of-print English translations of Miura's works, it can sometimes be found for sale on online used-book sites, so I encourage you to look for it if you don't already have a copy.