|A snowy morning in Tohoku|
I asked my students to translate the words into English for me, which they did, and that alone was impressive, to have four 17-year old instantaneous literary translators standing in front of me. What I found most interesting, though, was their interpretation was not exactly as I had remembered the opening line sounding. When I got home, I looked it up in my copy of the book. These two versions evoke very different images of the scene. Since I had this conversation with my students, a friend sent me the link to a forum discussing this very issue, since, apparently, the perhaps “faulty” translation of the first line of Snow Country is a bit of a controversy. And this isn’t the first time this kind of discrepancy between expert translators and what Japanese people themselves tell me has come up. My supervisor gave me an English copy of the short story “The Salamander,” by Masuji Ibuse, but she told me that the final lines in Japanese read very differently than the translation – to such a degree that it altered the way the entire story could be interpreted.