How does a book make it from the mind of a Japanese author into the hands of an English-language reader?
In this two-part episode, we’ll tackle the entire process—from book acquisition by a publisher, to pairing a book with a translator, to the actual process of translation. We’ll also talk about some of the ethical issues translation involves, all through the lens of Minae Mizumura’s An I-Novel, translated into English by Juliet Winters Carpenter.
Please note that part one mistakenly claims author Astrid Lindgren and her Pippi Longstocking series are Norwegian. They are Swedish.
- An I-Novel by Minae Mizumura (translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter)
More Writing by Minae Mizumura:
- Inheritance from Mother (translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter)
- The Fall of Language in the Age of English (translated by Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter)
- A True Novel (translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter)
Part 1 also mentions:
- The End of August by Yu Miri (translated by Morgan Giles)
- Solo Dance by Li Kotomi (translated by Arthur Reiji Morris)
- Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri (translated by Morgan Giles)
Part 2 also mentions:
- The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa (translated by Louise Heal Kawai)
- Hard Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Haruki Murakami (translated by Alfred Birnbaum)
- The House of the Lost on the Cape by Sachiko Kashiwaba (translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa)
- Kappa by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (translated by Allison Markin Powell and Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda)
- Penguin Highway by Tomihiko Morimi (translated by Andrew Cunningham)
- Rip It Up by Kou Machida (translated by Daniel Joseph)
- Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (translated by Edward Seidensticker)
- Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba (translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa)
- There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura (translated by Polly Barton)
- Twinkle Twinkle by Kaori Ekuni (translated by Emi Shimokawa)
- A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami (translated by Alfred Birnbaum)
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (translated by Jay Rubin)
- The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura (translated by Lucy North)
Find Out More
One Bright Book discusses An I-Novel. June 2023 podcast episode, because great minds think alike.
“Does Literature Have to Be Monolingual? Ellen Jones on Minae Mizumura’s An I-Novel and Multilingualism in Translation” at the CUP Blog (2021). This blog post includes a 13-page PDF preview of Carpenter’s translation.
“Which Japanese books Get Left Out of Translation” by Eric Margolis at Unseen Japan (2023). Publishers Weekly’s incomplete statistics lead Margolis to some false conclusions, but this is still a fascinating and informative article. (My apologies to Margolis. In the episode, I believe I have mispronounced his name and put the emphasis on the wrong syllable.)
- “10 Must Read Japanese to English Literary Translators”
- “Education for Literary Translators”
- “FAQ for Aspiring Japanese to English Media Translators”
- “Why Machine Translating Japanese Media Is a BAD Idea”
Translator Interviews—Emily Balistrieri
- “20th Century Hotel” by Tomihiko Morimi
- Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono
- The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl by Tomihiko Morimi
- People Who Talk to Stuffed Animals Are Nice by Ao Omae
- The Refugees’ Daughter by Takuji Ichikawa
- Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kazuki
- The Tatami Galaxy by Tomihiko Morimi
- Tatami Time Machine Blues by Tomihiko Morimi
Daniel Joseph’s Translations
- “Dancing for the Avatar” by Kou Machida
- Rip It Up by Kou Machida
- featured in Hit Parade of Tears by Izumi Suzuki
- “After Everything”
- “The Covenant”
- “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise”
- “The Walker”
- Learn more about Izumi Suzuki with the RJL podcast.
- featured in Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki
- “Terminal Boredom”
- “Women and Women”
- Read my review of Terminal Boredom in Asian Review of Books.
- Learn more about Izumi Suzuki with the RJL podcast.
Translator Interviews—Louise Heal Kawai
- Building Waves by Taeko Tomioka
- The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa
- The Detective Kosuke Kindaichi series by Seishi Yokomizo
- The Island of Expectation by Ito Ogawa
- “Milk” by Tamaki Daido in Inside and Other Short Fiction: Japanese Women by Japanese Women
- Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada
- Ms Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami
- The North Light by Hideo Yokoyama
- A Quiet Place by Seicho Matsumoto
- Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama
- “Shame” by Mieko Kawakami (co-translated by Hitomi Yoshio)
- Yakuza Moon by Shoko Tendo
Translator Interviews—Avery Fischer Udagawa
- The House of the Lost on the Cape by Sachiko Kashiwaba
- “House of Trust” by Sachiko Kashiwaba in Tomo—Friendship through Fiction: An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories
- J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani
- “Mirror, Mirror” in An Asian Tapestry of Colors
- Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba
More Translator Interviews of Interest
Other RJL Episodes of Interest:
- Episode 8: Meiji Literature & Japan’s Most Famous Literary Cat. Minae Mizumura’s 1st published novel finishes Natsume Soseki’s I Am a Cat.
- Episode 11: The I-Novel, Osamu Dazai, and No Longer Human. This episode covers the I novel genre in depth.
- Episode 16: Writing about Japan’s “Have-Nots”. Yu Miri is a rare Zainichi author available in English translation.
- Episode 17: The Smile of the Mountain Witch. Rebecca Copeland is a prominent academic and translator. She translated “The Smile of the Mountain Witch”.
- Episode 20: The Akutagawa Prize and Kobo Abe. Juliet Winters Carpenter has translated several of Kobo Abe’s novels.
Bhanot, Kavita and Jeremy Tiang. “Introduction” in Violent Phenomena: 21 Essays on Translation. Edited by Kavita Bhanot and Jeremy Tiang, Tilted Axis Press, 2022.
Carpenter, Juliet Winter and Mari Yoshihara. “Introduction” in The Fall of Language in the Age of English, Columbia, 2015.
Hur, Anton. “The Mythical English Reader” in Violent Phenomena: 21 Essays on Translation. Edited by Kavita Bhanot and Jeremy Tiang, Tilted Axis Press, 2022.
Kareem, Mona. “Western Poets Kidnap Your Poems and Call Them Translations: On the Colonial Phenomenon of Rendition as Translation” in Violent Phenomena: 21 Essays on Translation. Edited by Kavita Bhanot and Jeremy Tiang, Tilted Axis Press, 2022.
Ortabasi, Melek. “Bridge Essay: Literary Translation in the Modern World” in A Companion to World Literature, ed. Ken Seigneurie, John Wiley & Sons, 2019.
Udagawa, Avery Fischer and Nanette McGuiness. “#Worldkitlit Weekend: A Coversation with Avery Fischer Udagawa, Translator of Award-Winning Japanese Children’s Author Sachiko Kashiwaba” at GlobalLiteratureinLibrariesInitiative.com, 2021. (free)