April 22, 2007

"Shadow of the Moon" revisions

A loyal reader has been reviewing the TokyoPop edition of Shadow of the Moon and had a few questions about differences in the translations. I haven't read the book myself, so I only address myself to these specific concerns.

Not surprisingly, most of the problems are in Part 1, Chapter 4. Looking back through my notes, I see that I started Shadow of the Moon over three years ago. I translated part 1 and then put it aside for several months before resuming where I left off. So this is the first time I've reviewed it carefully.

I did make some silly mistakes. On the other hand, the middle-aged brain is apparently capable of learning something in three years.

Chapter 1/4

Before she could react, he reached out and grabbed Yoko's feet--not aggressively, but submissively, as if in some foreign gesture of respect.

1) "Feet" is preferred to "legs." But the parenthetical, "as if in some foreign gesture of respect," is not in the original. And it's a strange parenthetical, as the gesture would not be all that "foreign" to Youko. What's surprising to her is that it's being done by someone who appears to be her social superior.

An example can be found in the action movie Boukoku no Aegis (pretty much a clone of Under Siege and The Rock), in which a navy commander does almost the same thing, debasing himself before a police officer to keep his shipmates from getting locked up for causing a brawl.

The man took her foot and placed it squarely on his lowered forehead.

2) Here I think the TokyoPop translator has mistaken the arch of the foot for the instep. The important clause is 「足の甲に額を当てる」lit.: "touch forehead to instep of foot." 「足の甲」 is defined as the "arched upper surface of the human foot between the toes and the ankle."

From Yoshie Omura's invaluable Twelve Kingdoms glossary, he describes the rite as follows: 王が「許す」と言うと、麒麟は王の足の甲に額(角)を当てる。すると王は神となる。[When the empress says "I accede," the Kirin touches the instep of the empress's foot with his forehead (horn). Upon doing so, the empress becomes a god.]

Yoko felt her mouth form the words.

3) The literal translation is: "The amazed Youko nodded despite herself."

4) I remember debating the verb "allow" (許す). True, it doesn't really work, but I don't like "accept" (which TokyoPop uses) either. I think "accede" is better, since Keiki is really asking Youko to "accede (or yield) to his demands" rather than to "accept" them.

But I did mis-attribute Youko's "I accede" to Keiki. Japanese can be frustrating in how dialogue attribution is marked, but this one wasn't confusing at all. (Like I said, three years ago . . . . )

5) Keiki refers to Youko as "Gozen" (ゴゼン), which can be translated as "Your Excellency," or "you," depending on context and time period. The consensus so far seems to be the former. During WWII, meetings with the emperor about critical matters of state were known as "gozen conferences" (御前会議).

Keiki's entourage consistently refers to Youko using honorific language, which makes it clear to the reader that they don't consider her an ordinary person.

6) I completed missed the "through" clause in this sentence:

Her senses reeled. She felt something coursing through her. Her vision momentarily went black. A low rumble like an earthquake shook the room. The courtyard outside the windows fell into muddy shadows.

Chapter 1/8

Referring to the jewel, I honestly have no idea where I got the plural from. All references (including accompanying pronouns and verbs) should be singular: chapters 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 43, 44, 46, 66 (sigh).

Chapter 4/9

Another dumb error. Should be:

"When's the last time you had anything to eat?"

Youko couldn't be bothered to come up with a number so she remained silent.

TokyoPop also makes the error I did of using the pronoun "she," which conflicts with the "sir" (or "mister") the child uses, believing she is a boy. Better: "It wouldn't stay down."

The online and offline browser versions have been updated.

A note about romanization: In Hepburn, Youko would be written Yōko (or Yôko) to indicate the long vowel. Except that the macron is not a standard character in English and most people don't know what it means anyway. Both long and double vowels are held two beats versus one for ordinary vowels.

More importantly, the macron doesn't discriminate between double vowels (/oo/) and long vowels (/ou/). Ask a native Japanese to slowly pronounce a long vowel, and they will articulate the /u/. So I prefer to write long vowels as "spelled" in hiragana (except for common place names; writing Tokyo as "Toukyou" would confuse people).

Discriminating between long and short vowels is probably the most difficult aspect of Japanese pronunciation. The example cited by Jack Seward is komon (顧問) and koumon (肛門). The former means "consultant," the latter means "rectum." I'll often resort to tapping out the syllables. "Yōko" is three beats: Yo-u-ko.

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