I couldn’t write any more. It turned out that the trajectory of my world had been determined by the stitches of so many regrets. It turned out that I had had so many chances to enter into a new, potentially better world.
Heitaro was a rational young fellow who believed in the progress and harmony of mankind. He felt nothing but contempt for ghosts and yokai and didn’t hesitate to declare that anyone scared of such insubstantial phenomena was an unenlightened imbecile. He had a habit of saying things like, “Act like you’re living in the 20th century!”
As someone who thinks of myself primarily as a writer, I first became interested in translation three years ago when I started working on a novel inspired by the tropes of wuxia (martial arts fantasy) fiction in English.
We're delighted to welcome John Yu Branscum and Yi Izzy Yu to the blog, to tell us more about their translation of Ji Yun, and their work on Chinese anomaly tales, or zhiguai. You can read their translation of Ji Yun's Guests from the Sky in the September 2019 issue of Samovar, alongside the original Chinese. They are both writers and translators, and teach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. They are one of two finalists for the The International Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation & Multilingual Texts from Antioch University/Lunch Ticket Magazine.
Umberto Eco once pessimistically said that “translation is the art of failure”. In contrast, I say that this precious craft is the art of success because without literary translation, we are all separate dots in an ocean of failures.
Short stories tend to have much shorter lifespans than novels do. As such, a translation is a form of reincarnation. The end result is the same story, but also a completely different one at the same time. The first level of changes is due to the different language operating under another structure, a different set of ties binding the abstract with the specific. But there's also the second level, a more intimate level where the story surreptitiously obtains new properties after it’s been processed through the mind of the translator.
I got into translation for the same reason many people get into blogging, writing reviews, and other fannish activities: I loved certain stories and felt the strong desire to share them with my friends. Except many of my genre-reading friends do not speak Russian. And while I'm not a reviewer and am a lazy blogger at best, in this case I had, ahem, a particular set of skills…