Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An apology

One Hundred Mountains: coming soon, but not quite as soon as expected

Sumimasen: I have to apologise. In an earlier update, you were promised the English translation of Nihon Hyakumeizan by Christmas. Well, it now appears that you will have it in good time for Christmas 2015. The printing presses are running as I write, which will let us claim - just about - that One Hundred Mountains of Japan came out in time to mark the half-century of the original book's appearance. Alas, copies will reach the shops, online and otherwise, only in the New Year. Zuibun o-matase shimashita.

It occurs to me that several readers of this blog have actually climbed all of Fukada Kyūya's hundred mountains - with all the costs, travelling and placating of office bosses that this entails - in far less time than it took to translate the book's 460-odd pages, let alone get it published. For the record, Project Hyakumeizan started the translation in 2003 and finished it three years later. Yet, as you see, more than twice that much time again was needed to actually get the book out of the door.

Just for fun, I was tempted to see how this tardy-gaited performance stacks up against the Paris-Dakar rally of Japanese-to-English translation - the challenge of turning Genji Monogatari into English. Actually, it might have been better not to venture on that comparison. For it doesn't show Project Hyakumeizan in a good light. Summoning the shade of the immortal Arthur Waley (1889-1966) to the witness stand, we find that he took a mere twelve years for his "transcreation", as he called it, starting in 1921 and completing the last of six volumes in 1933.

Picking up the baton two generations later, Edward Seidensticker (1921-2007) pared that time down to a round decade, bringing out his modernized Shining Prince in 1976. Another few years were knocked off this record by Royall Tyler (born 1936) with his acclaimed 2001 version of Genji, started in 1993. Of course, the Tale of Genji has been translated into many more languages than English. It seems that Setouchi Jakucho, a Kyoto-based nun, took just four years to finish her recension of Lady Murasaki's tale into modern Japanese. And she started at the age of seventy.

Confronted with such examples of translation dash and derring-do, I can only bow at the acutest of angles - please feel free to imagine me tilting ritually forward at the podium like some disgraced company executive - and offer you my most abject moshiwake gozaimasen. So please bear with me until January, and in the meantime have yourself a memorable (but, perforce, One Hundred Mountains-free) Christmas and New Year ...

4 comments:

Kittie Howard said...

From my branch on the tree, there's no need to apologize! You've done a great job doing what you've done. I don't mean to be disrespectful to those who crossed the finish line sooner, but that was a different era. What with the intricate publishing legalities these days, nothing is simple.

Hey, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

wes said...

Better late than never as they say. I'll be first in line to get my copy as it hits the presses, though I get the feeling that Amazon may be a better option than waiting for the chain bookstores here to stock it.

ted said...

Amazon Japan must have gotten a restock, as both Wes and I got our copies yesterday. Looking forward to reading (and reviewing!).

Project Hyakumeizan said...

Ted: many thanks for your support (maido okini!) and also for the news that the delivery logjam has finally eased. Amazon.com has been shipping for a few weeks, but it's good to hear that Amazon Japan is now stocked up too....

Enjoy reading!