8 May 2009

Translation Exercise: "God Hates Japan" (1)

In 2001, Canadian author Douglas Coupland released a book in Japan strangely titled, "God Hates Japan" (神は日本を憎んでいる). I don't know that much about the book itself, but he wrote it in English, it was translated into Japanese, and published by a manga studio of some sort.

Anyway, I bought a copy off of the Japanese Amazon site a few years ago, and it ended up in one of many boxes with all my other books when I left for Japan. I'm home on vacation right now and was going through my stuff and thought I'd translate a couple of pages of this mouse-gnawed book since the Japanese Proficiency Test is coming up and I need some practice.

First here's the annotated first page of the original Japanese (for educational purposes only), then my English translation below.

Original Japanese translation

パート1

高校生活最後の年に、クラスでかわかった3人の女子が宗教を見つけた。物語を始めるには妙な場所かもしれないが、(1) それが結構そうでもなかったりする。何かの役に立つかは分からないが、そんなキミコとカオルとエリコの3人は、(2) クラスの中でも背の高い方だった。そんな彼女たちの身のこなしは見事と言うしかなく、(3) 生物教師のウエダをして、第二次世界大戦争の国民の食生活における乳製品の大量導入が、結果的に、日本人をより優れた民族にしたごとの生きた証だと言わしめたほどだった。なんて気味の悪いファシストなんだろう。とにかく、3人は現実に存在した。クラスでも有数の美人で、喩えるなら、タンポポやオヒシバの僕らと較べたら、薔薇や牡丹の3人は、正統派美人の確たる例として、僕らの前に叩きつけられた。

でも彼女たちが、偶然に宗教を発見したわけではない。それは、モルモン教宣教師のスコットとカービーが、僕の家から6軒先にあったキミコの家の隣にホームステイし始めてからのことだ。カービーのやつは、(4) いかにもアメリカのテレビドラマに登場する、カリフォルニアの砂漠の真ん中に取り残されたトレーラーを改造したクリスタル・メタアンフェタミン精製所に収入を試みそうなやつだった。(5) どこかマヌケな怠け者といった感じで、あの滑稽なモルモン教徒の定番(ユニフォーム)であるシャツとネクタイでさえ、その下品さをカモフラージュしきれなかった。しかも、教会が髪を切ってしまうまでは、きっと角刈りだったに違いない。

Notes:

(1) それが結構そうでもなかったりする
Bad way to start. I'm not sure what this is referring to exactly, which is a bit problematic. I found three hits for this phrase on Google so it is Japanese. If anyone has ideas, please let me know.
(2) の中でも
This phrase is used as "among" or "above".
(3) をして ... 言わしめた
My friend Kaori helped me with this one, and I finally found a entry in Yahoo辞典 with a translation of this phrase into standard, modern Japanese, which says something. The final verb is reflexive, stretching waaaay back to the を particle, which is used after a name to mean "make someone say".
(4) 登場する、... 収入を試みそう
Here too the final verb seems to modify the proceeding verbs. I'm also not 100% sure about this, but it seems to be "try to ... and ...".
(5) といった感じ
This phrase means "a typical ...". I don't know it's relation to the many other phrases that mean basically the same thing.


My translation back into English

Part 1

In their last year of high school life, three cute girls in my class found religion. This might be a weird place to start a story but, sometimes that doesn't seem to be enough. I don't know if this is going to help in some way, but that trio of Kimiko, Kaoru and Eriko were even the tallest in class. I won't say anything about them other than the way they carried themselves was splendid, to the point that they made the bio teacher Ueda say that they were living proof that the abundant introduction of milk products into the citizens' diet during World War 2 created a race that had surpassed the Japanese. What a creepy fascist. Anyway, these three actually existed. As the leading beauty queens in the class -- if you were to make an analogy, when you compare to us dandelions and wiregrasses, these three roses and peonies -- as definite examples of the orthodox beautiful girls -- slapped us in the face.

But these girls, they didn't just accidentally find religion. That is, the Mormon missionaries Scott and Kirby were on their first home stay trip in Kimiko's house six doors down from mine. This guy Kirby was the kind of guy that would try to make it onto an American TV drama or try to make a living in a trailer in the middle of the California desert modded into a crystal meth lab. He was a typical idiot punk and even in those funny prerequisite Mormon shirts and ties, it was impossible to camouflage that kind of vulgarity. In addition, as far as the church cutting his hair, it was no doubt a proper buzz cut.

Thoughts

So this was incredibly hard to translate. I would be surprised if my version is 70% accurate in terms of grammar, and not just because my Japanese is atrocious, but because a lot of the phrases are obscure and the sentences are really surprisingly complex. This is probably appropriate for ikyu-test takers.

If you have any comments, suggestions or translation ideas, I'm all ears, folks.

2 comments:

kojaxs said...

Some guidance on notes 1 and 4.

1. Is just talking about the oddness of the story.

物語を始めるには妙な場所かもしれないが、それが結構そうでもなかったりする。

This might be a odd place to start a story, but it might not actually be such an odd place to start.

4. Is describing (in detail) about a character archtype that this character fits.

いかにもアメリカのテレビドラマに登場する、カリフォルニアの砂漠の真ん中に取り残されたトレーラーを改造したクリスタル・メタアンフェタミン精製所に収入を試みそうなやつだった。

He was like a character that appeared in American television dramas, the kind that spend all his earnings on modifying a trailer abandoned in the middle of the California desert into a crystal meth lab.

Based on the Japanese sentence it's not clear the character is actually paying to modify the trailer. The Japanese sentence indicates that he's just spending money on the modified trailer. But I couldn't think of a translation that gracefully put all the other elements into the sentence without assuming the former.

Hope that helps!

Furious said...

Hey Kozo! Yeah, like you said, the think I found really difficult about translating this was putting everything gracefully into a single sentence, aside from sometimes ambiguous grammar-- at least for a far-from-fluent speaker.