For Ito Eishiro, as well, the question of how to translate Finnegans Wake, a work that Umberito Eco perceived as taking language "beyond any boundary of communicability," must address the seemingly infinite interpretative possibilities of Joyce's language. Naoki Yanase's solution was, in part, to invent numerous Japanese words and phrases for his 1991-1993 scholarly, artistic translation of the Wake (the only complete translation of the book into Japanese), creating what Ito regards as a masterpiece not only of translation but also of Japanese literature in its own right. Yanase attempted to transpose the ambiguities of Joyce's language into the translation itself, deconstructing Japanese as Joyce's original text deconstructed English. Yet the esoteric nature of Yanase's enterprise led Kyoko Miyata to publish in 2004 an abridged, and far more readable, translation with introductions for each chapter and notes on Joyce's language. Particularly fascinating for the non-Japanese-speaking audience was Ito's reading of a passage from the Wake, then Yanase's translation, and then Miyata's translation to demonstrate the rhythm, musicality, and poetic effect of the works.
--Ellen Carol Jones, James Joyce Quarterly, 41.1/2 (Fall 2003/Winter 2004), 19.
This paper aims to introduce and examine two Japanese translations of Finnegans Wake which has been considered to be "untranslatable" or one of the most difficult books to translate. But now we can enjoy it in many languages-- French, Italian, German, Hungarian, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, etc. The basic language of FW is doubtlessly English, and most of the dominant languages are European.
Naoki Yanase, the Japanese translator was challenged to complete his translation into Japanese (1991-1993). Of course some of the rich ambiguity of the original may have been lost, but he made a great effort to convey the atmosphere and tone of the original: he even translated “Joyce's style” into Japanese. Yanase's translation is a novel in its own right and a great masterpiece of Japanese literature.
In June 2004, another translator, Kyoko Miyata, published a more readable Japanese translation of FW. Her abridged translation (about half the size of the original) with her detailed notes, is much more understandable than Yanase's, and plays another role for prospective Japanese readers.
Comparing these two Japanese translations, we can understand these two effective methods to convey the ambiguities of Joycean words in Finnegans Wake in translation.Keywords: translation, readability, multilingualism,
compound words, ambiguity
full version is available in James
Joyce Journal, vol. 10, no.2. The James Joyce Society of Korea,
December 2004, 117-152.
Copyright 2004 Eishiro Ito
Jolas, et al. proclaimed the “Revolution
of the Word” in June 1929.
The following two
articles of their proclamation appropriately defend and assure James Joyce's
method in Finnegans Wake:
Then, how can the
syntactically disintegrated text” be translated into another
mono-language? Should the translator
faithfully put it into a disintegrated language even if only a very
limited number of readers can understand it? This
paper aims to introduce and examine two Japanese translations of Finnegans
Wake: Naoki Yanase (1991-93)
and Kyoko Miyata (2004). Finnegans
Wake has been considered to be "untranslatable" or one of the
most difficult books to translate. But
now we can enjoy it in many languages-- French, Italian, German,
Hungarian, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, etc. The
principal language of FW is doubtlessly English, and most of
the dominant languages Joyce used in the text are European.
Joyce's knowledge about Asia
was very limited, however, he inserted supposedly about 80 Japanese
words or elements into FW.
As Umberto Eco argues in The Aesthetics of Chaosmos,
Wake takes language beyond any boundary of communicability” (Eco
61). Joyce seems to have
created the “Joycean language” based on English and a compound from a
list of 40 languages
around the world (JJA 63.343). The “Joycean
language” is a
fertile bed of multilingualism whose ambiguity enables the reader
infinitely to interpret each word,
phrase and sentence Joyce interweaved in the text.
It is very difficult to read Finnegans Wake, which always leads
readers to its hermetic linguistic woods. Needless to say,
translating the entire text into one single language has been long
considered to be almost
impossible before Philippe Lavergne’s complete French translation was
published in 1982.
Naoki Yanase, the Japanese translator, was challenged to
translation into Japanese. Of course some of the rich ambiguity
of the original may have been lost, but
using a variety of paper and CD-ROM dictionaries he succeeded in
atmosphere and tone of the original. He even created
numerous new Japanese words and phrases to translate FW.
Yanase's translation is a novel in its own right and a great
masterpiece of Japanese literature.
However, his translation is too esoteric for the general reader: only a
very limited number of academic and patient
readers could finish it.
I. Historical Order of Japanese Translations of Finnegans Wake
In translation process, translators are expected to “change into another language retaining the sense” (OED 2) and also to convey the original meaning to readers neatly. In this sense, Finnegans Wake has been considered to be "untranslatable" or one of the most difficult books to translate, because it was written in multiple languages. As listed by Joyce, Finnegans Wake contains 40 languages including Japanese and Chinese, but how can translators transpose the multilingualism Joyce used or the Joycean compounded words? Of course, translators can abandon Joyce’s multilingualism and translate it into a single language to encourage mono-lingual readers to read Finnegans Wake. To do this, the translator must select the surface meaning of each word and phrase to transcribe it into one language, which is considered to diminish greatly the literary value of the multilingualism Joyce employed in Finnegans Wake. Joyce needed to use multilingualism for Finnegans Wake to accomplish his final goal, the deconstruction and recreation of English which is not “his language,” as Stephen Dedalus tells in his interior monologue in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, although it was definitely his native tongue long before he was born. 4) On the European Continent where not so many people use English as their daily language, Joyce earned his living by teaching English. But his incompatibility or feeling of unbelonging with English language while living on the Continent could be redoubled by the deconstruction.
Finnegans Wake is a work of fiction which consists of deliberately incorrect misspellings. Unlike Chinese characters or “kanji,” which express their meanings with symbols, the alphabetical letters express only how to pronounce the words, which enables us to interpret each word of FW infinitely. Among many translations, the Korean and Japanese complete translations are unique in not using the Roman alphabet.
Unlike the majority of world languages which normally use the common basic word order, that is, “Subject, Verb and Object,” Korean and Japanese languages belong to the same linguistic group, the Ural-Altaic family which includes Mongolian, Turkish, Hungarian and Finnish which employ the basic word order, “Subject, Object and Verb.” Recent linguistic research, however, has been proving that there is no clear similarity in lexica among Ural-Altaic languages, but that they are agglutinative languages in word structure using affixes, especially suffixes to the root.
The Japanese written language consists of three elements, “hiragana,” “katakana” and “Kanji” or Chinese characters. “Hiragana” is a much smoother script, full of loops and curves. There are 46 basic “hiragana” characters, each one having a counterpart in “katakana.” All sounds in the Japanese language can be expressed with just hiragana (Sterzinger). After the Meiji Restoration in 1869 the new government impelled the Japanese people through sudden westernization to catch up with the Great Powers of the world. Then people gradually came to use “katakana” for foreign, especially Western words. Chinese characters or “Kanji” is the most complicated script in Japanese. “Kanji” characters are Chinese ideograms and number in the thousands with each one representing a different idea, but most of “kanji” characters have more than one possible reading (Sterzinger). So Japanese writers often put what we call “Rubies” or “furigana” onto kanji characters to indicate the right pronunciation for readers. This complicated writing system, however, enriched Japanese, especially in translation process, as we will see later.
The history of translating FW into Japanese can be traced back to the year 1933. After six more partial translations, Naoki Yanase finished the first complete Japanese translation of Finnegans Wake in 1993:
Junzaburo. Anna Livia Plurabelle (FW196.01-19
& FW213.11-216.05) in
A succession of Japanese translators have exerted themselves to translate Finnegans Wake into Japanese. Nishiwaki, the first translator, decoded the Anna Livia chapter with the guide of C. K. Ogden's “Basic English” translation. The second group, Osawa, Koike, Sawasaki and Toda first decrypted “Shem the Penman” into Japanese with detailed notes. Their method in expressing the multiple meanings of each Joycean phrase is to transfer its surface meaning into readable Japanese text and make endnotes to explain its lower- layered meanings, historical background, etc. The same method was basically employed by the third group led by the late professor Yukio Suzuki. Naoki Yanase first learned of Finnegans Wake by joining Suzuki's reading group, which published the fifth partial translation in 1971. They translated the first three chapters and added footnotes.
After that, Yanase left the group and began to translate Finnegans Wake alone in 1986. He published the first half of the translation (Books I and II) in 1991 and the other half (Books III and IV) in 1993; he took seven and a half years to complete the translation. He did not add a translator's note, although he had to make some fragmental notes later at the requests of readers. Although it is still the only complete Japanese translation of Finnegans Wake, general readers often complain that it is too difficult to follow the supposedly main plot because of the very complex usage of Japanese Yanase employed to express Joyce's multilingualism or multi-layered meanings of each word and phrase of the novel. Probably most readers would give up reading Yanase's translation in the first few pages. Yanase made a great effort to duplicate Joyce's original text into Japanese: but Yanase's new Japanese usage cannot be a Creole to communicate between Joyce and common Japanese readers.
Kyoko Miyata's style of translation makes it much easier for general readers to access the text as Eun-Kyung Chun suggests. Miyata, impressed with Michel Butor's introduction to the French translation of “Anna Livia Plurabelle,” that can be summarized that “when reading, the reader consciously or unconsciously makes one choice among mass of meanings of words and phrases.” 5) Then she thought that there is a limit in translating multiple (much more than two or three) meanings of Joycean words into Japanese: so she decided to take care of how to select one (or two) meaning(s) of each word and translate it into the easiest Japanese as she could, and to indicate the ambiguities in notes (Miyata 673). However, it was not so easy, as she confessed in the afterword of her translation (Miyata 673).
Miyata carefully followed the first layered plot to transcribe it into easy Japanese as best she could and put detailed notes at the foot of each page for the general reader; she explained the (at most three) implications of each entry in order to save paper space. Miyata mainly consulted Bernard Benstock’s “A Working Outline” and also looked through Anthony Burgess's A Shorter “Finnegans Wake” to decide which parts to select to translate for her 628-page-long translation (same as the original text length). 6) Her translation includes every beginning and ending part of each chapter, and also contains hard-core episodes, important passages to show the novel's themes and other motifs that Miyata chose. She put her interpretations before and after the translated parts, explaining the meanings and significance, and their context. She hopes that her translation is much more understandable to general Japanese readers. She wished to Finnegans Wake, “as an organic whole, to bring in relief this thin but surely existing flow of narrative.” 7) She uses Eco’s three phrases from The Aethetics of Chaosmos for her translation7s endorsement with his permission: “an enormous ‘world theater,’” “a clavis universalis,” and “a ‘mirror’ of the cosmos” (Eco 73). 8)
Since it was published in June 2004, Miyata’s translation has met with a favorable reception by the reading public. She could have translated the whole text, but she selected an abridged form supplemented with her explanations and summary of the missing parts: to highlight the signposts in the deep linguistic forest for the general reader, although some academic or enthusiastic readers might be discouraged.
II. Distinctive Features of Two Translations
Yanase explained later in many of his books and interviews, his
owes greatly to the developments of Japanese word processors and CD-ROM
dictionaries. He always referred to the
1. McHugh, Roland: Annotations to “Finnegans Wake”
his lexicon list includes A Lexicon of
the German in “Finnegans Wake, ” A
Gaelic Lexicon for “Finnegans Wake, ”
A Classical Lexicon for “Finnegans Wake, ”
Scandinavian Elements of “Finnegans Wake, ” A Third
Census of “Finnegans Wake” and A “Finnegans Wake”
21-22). It is notable that his list
includes Ó Súilleabháin's Irish Wake
Amusements: it was first written in Irish as Caitheamh
Aimsire ar Thórraimh in 1961 and translated by the author
in 1967. It explains the various
features of the Irish wake amusements: story-telling, singing, music,
contests in strength, taunting, mocking, booby traps, and various games
imitative games, catch games, etc.: needless to say, such Irish wake
can be found throughout Finnegans Wake.
Ireland is about Mr. & Mrs. Hall's tour of 1840 which covers
the major sightseeing spots of
Miyata used more than a hundred Joycean references including Yanase's translation as listed in her afterword. To make her notes for readers, she used the following five books:
Glasheen, Adaline: A Third Census of "Finnegans Wake",
It is not fair to Yanase, however, to compare his lexicon list with Miyata's because she translated ten years after Yanase did, and could refer to even Yanase's translation when necessary. Both commonly referred to McHugh's Annotations to “Finnegans Wake,” Campbell & Robinson's A Skeletion Key to “Finnegans Wake” and Tindall's A Reader's Guide to Finnegans Wake.
Yanase's translation and Miyata's translation can be contrasted in the following points:
1. “Rubies” or “furigana”:
III. First Page of Two Translations Compared
The Following is the first page of the two translations and notes:
せんそ う れいはいてい す ね きしべ わ きょく
わん こん どう めぐ みち びこう めぐ もど
えいちし い い い じょう しゅうえん
こい れいじん たんちょう うみ こ
Yanase ノース・アルモリカから こちら
おう ちきょう おくれ ばや こぐん ひつせん
かはん ト ウ だんち
ぐん ジョージ アしゅう
えんえん いっせ い われ わ め
な んじ でいたん せんれい しか
わかげす もうろく イ サクじ い た
こ い ウ゛アネッ しまい ジョウ おとこ
おやじ ば くが はつこう あ
こうきゅ う はし み なも こ
Yanase コ ンサンダダンダダ ウォールルガ ガイッテへへへトールトル ルトロンブ
きゅうウ オルがい ろうじん おはなし しょじ ねどこ
いのちな が タン ぎんゆうし かたり つ りへき だいかい らく
ついおと こ らく
ま こ ず み は
せんさく ず にし いど むく さが
し ば てん こうえん ぐう
よ みどり あ か
Yanase did not put the translator's notes in his translation, although he explained the first paragraph a little in Finnegan Shinkoki. 11) Yanase printed “ruby” or “kana” along every Chinese character to show pronunciations. His unique usage of Chinese characters corresponds with the Joycean compound words.
(senso) expresses “river+run” which also
“Kawa wa nagareru (riverrun).” The original text begins with the small letter “r” and links with the last sentence of the text, “Yukute wo hitori saigo ni aisarete
The above comparison of the first page explains their major differences. Careful readers can easily find the differences of each translator’s interpretation word by word. But the major differences come from each translator’s method: Yanase tried to transpose the ambiguities only with his translated text as much as possible, while Miyata transposed them using foot notes to make the Japanese translation as plain as she could.
Even more than ten years after the publication, the assessments
of Yanase's translation have yet to come down on one side or the
Many Japanese Joycean scholars admired his
while quite a few scholars just ignored it.
One of the earliest reactions was Yong-Gyun Nah's Korean review,
in English Language and Literature, published by the
English Language and Literature Association of Korea
12) Yong-Gyun Nah
actually met Yanase in Tokyo to
express her admiration. In one
interview, Yanase expressed great gratitude towards her (
Kanto Joyce Study Group,
So far, at least three Japanese reviews for Miyata's translation can be found, all of which express warm comments for her abridged but readable translation with her helpful summaries of each chapter and supplementary notes for the Joycean words. An abridged readable translation with supplementary exegeses explaining the missing parts might be a good way to convey the atmosphere and tone of the original text to general non-English readers.
Comparing these two translations make us reconsider what is the role of the translator, and what is an ideal translation. It is not meaningful to decide which is better, Yanase’s translation or Miyata's. Miyata’s translation will recruit new Japanese readers of Finnegans Wake, and some of them will become students and scholars of James Joyce in the future when they might try to read Yanase’s translation again, and finally read the original text. Yanase’s scholarly translation and Miyata's understandable translation may be complementary to each other. Japanese Joyceans can now obtain two great Japanese all-inclusive references of Finnegans Wake. Finally, I do hope that more wonderful translations will appear around the world.