16 March 2009

Translation Exercise: "Wolf Totem" (1)

Classes are over and I'm starving for something to do. I've been translating pretty much anything I can get my hands on, just for the practice, but unfortunately most of the English language literature I have is itself a translation -- either from Russian or Chinese or Japanese -- or is written in post-modern vernacular and is almost impossible to render in another language.

A few weeks ago, I tried to translate a few paragraphs of "Wolf Totem", a famous modern Chinese model by Jiang Rong. Here's the broken-Japanese result:

英和翻訳:

神なるオオカミ (Wolf Totem・狼图腾)

(甚だしい誤りを見たら、教えて下さい。)

ビルギーと一緒にいるのは慰められる。陳は頭がすっきりするように目をこすり、静かにビルギーにまばたきし、そしてガゼルと狼を眺めるように望遠鏡を上げる。

陳は先の狼と遭遇してから、草地の住民―遊牧民―はいつも狼に囲まれるまでは長くないと理解するようになった。ほぼ毎晩幽霊のような狼の姿を見つける―特にひどく寒い冬に。一、二――あるいは五、六――それとも、十二もの明るい緑の目組が放牧地の周囲に動くのが見える。百里以上。ある夜には陳とビルギーの嫁のガスマイが懐中電灯で二十五匹まで数える。

ゲリラ軍のように遊牧民が簡単のために努力する。冬の間に羊小屋は防風柵として役立つ大きいなフェツトじゅうたんが付けている荷馬車によって移動垣根となった半円だ。しかし狼を防げない。広い南部の通路は犬の一群と当番の女に守られる。時折狼が羊小屋に侵入し、犬と戦う。体がユルトの壁にドサッとぶつかって、内にいる人に目を覚めさせる。陳陣に二回起こって、寝台に落ちるのを防ぐのはその壁じかなかった。しばしば遊牧民は狼から二枚のフェルトじゅうたんだけで分離する。

注: 陳陣=チェン・ジェン

質問:

日本語の小説は一般的に現在形で書かれるながら、英語の小説はよく過去形で書かれる。日本語では、聞き伝えとかあるキャラクターの過去の経験について話すときに、過去形は適当でしょうか。

Source text: Wolf Totem (狼图腾) by Jiang Rong (姜戎)

Having Bilgee beside him was comforting. Chen rubbed his eyes to clear away the mist and blinked calmly at Bilgee, then raised his telescope again to watch the gazelles and the wolves.

Since his earlier encounter with the wolves, he had come to understand that the inhabitants of the grassland, the nomads, were never far from being surrounded by wolves. Nearly every night he spotted ghostly wolf outlines, especially during the frigid winter; two or three, perhaps five or six, and as many as many as ten pairs of glittering green eyes moving around the perimeter of the grazing land, as far as a hundred li or more distant. One night he and Bilgee’s daughter-in-law Gasmai, aided by flashlights, counted twenty-five of them.

Like guerrilla fighters, nomads strive for simplicity. During the winter, sheep pens are semicircles formed by wagons and mobile fencing, with large felt rugs that serve as a windbreak but cannot keep out the wolves. The wide southern openings are guarded by packs of dogs and women on watch shifts. From time to time, wolves break into the pens and fight the dogs. Bodies often thud into yurt walls, waking people on the other side; twice that had happened to Chen Zhen, and all that had kept a wolf from landing beside him was that wall. Frequently, nomads are separated from wolves by no more than a couple of felt rugs.


Question:

Japanese novels are generally written in present tense, while English novels are frequently written in past tense. In Japanese, when talking about hearsay or a character’s past experiences, is past tense appropriate?

1 comment:

kojaxs said...

I say if it's written in past tense, I say translate it in past tense. If the story is written a certain way, why change it just because the locals write a certain way. Especially since writing stories in the past tense is perfectly acceptable in Japanese.

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