stories from the floating world

Toshio Shimao : Down by the River
Translator's Apologia
Appearing henceforth in this space: extraordinary tales from Zipangu! Brought to you by a humble junkie of the writings of the heirs of Murasaki Shikibu and Kamo no Chomei.

This all started out with Toshio Shimao. I've been reading his complete works for a while now, taking my time to drag out the pleasure as long as possible. On April 12, 2004 I came upon Kawa Nite. As happens sometimes after reading a good story, I was seized with the urge to translate it. But for the first time the conditions seemed right. The text and I were a perfect match. The setting was nonspecific, just the way I like it. There was a lot I could identify with in the story - heck, it was a perfect description of my one-year stay among the natives of the UK, transposed to Amami Island. I'd made some non-starting efforts with other authors in the past, but I just hadn't identified with the material. This time the sync was 100%, so if anybody could translate it, I could, I thought. So I gave it a shot, just for kicks. I'll leave it up to readers to judge the results. If my translation can convey just a fraction of the supreme enjoyment I derive from this man's writing, I'll be satisfied.

Translating this story was really my first taste of the pleasures of translation. It made me want to try my hand at literary translation again later. I'd like to do more Shimao eventually, but I'm also looking at Mieko Kanai, Kenji Nakagami, Gen'ichiro Takahashi and Koh Machida, among others. However, only time will tell if anything else actually appears.

Got any suggestions for a translation or just a good new story to read? Send 'em up. I'm into Gunzo, Bungei Shunju, etc. I'm keen on stuff by the younger generation, ie, folks who debuted within the last ten years, like Koh Machida or Kazunori Abe.

- Benjamin Ettinger, June 23, 2004