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Terry Gallagher wins the The Japan-United States Friendship Commission Prize!

So thrilled that Terry Gallagher’s translation of Toh EnJoe’s Self-Reference ENGINE won the Japan-United States Friendship Commission Prize!

Press release below!

Recipients of Japan-United States Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature Announced

New York, New York, October 1st, 2015 — The jury for the Japan-United States Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature met on September 25th, 2015, in New York City and decided on the winners of this year’s competition.
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The Prizes for the calendar year 2015-2016 will be awarded to the following translators, listed in alphabetical order by last name:

(Columbia University Press, 2014)

Terry Gallagher for his translation of Toh Enjoe’s SELF-REFERENCE ENGINE
(VIZ Media, 2013)

Stephen D. Miller and Patrick Donnelly for their waka translation in THE WIND
FROM VULTURE PEAK (Cornell East Asia Series, 2013)

An awards ceremony will be held at Columbia University in New York City on Friday December 11th, 2015. The Japan-United States Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature was established in 1979, and the award has been administered by the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University since the Center was founded in 1986. The Prize is awarded annually to outstanding works of translation into English from the Japanese language.

About the Japan United States Friendship Commission:

The Japan United States Friendship Commission (JUSFC) was established as an independent agency by the US Congress in 1975 (P.L. 94-118). The Commission administers a US government trust fund that originated in connection with the return to the Japanese government of certain US facilities in Okinawa and for postwar American assistance to Japan. Income from the fund is available for the promotion of scholarly, cultural and public affairs activities between the two countries.

About the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture:
Founded in 1986 at Columbia University, the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture is named in honor of Professor Donald Keene, internationally renowned scholar, Columbia University teacher, and interpreter of Japanese literature and culture to the West. The Center is dedicated to advancing the understanding of Japan and its culture in the United States through university instruction, research, and public education. In addition, the Center seeks to encourage study of the interrelationships among the cultures of Japan, other Asian countries, Europe, and the United States. The DKC is the central institution supporting the study of Japanese culture, literature, art, and history at Columbia University, and frequently co-sponsors events with the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, the Center for
Korean Research, and other Columbia centers and institutes.

Yoshiko Niiya, Program Coordinator
Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture

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Self-Reference ENGINE wins the PKD Special Citation

Great news this weekend from Norwescon in Seattle—Toh EnJoe won the Special Citation for the Philip K. Dick Award for his groundbreaking book Self-Reference ENGINE.

The PKD Award is a juried award for best paperback-original science fiction book (not fantasy, not necessarily even a novel) published in the US. The Special Citation is the silver medal award, which comes with a cash prize and certificate. There’s also a little to-do: a ceremony with reception and buffet for authors hosted by Norwescon, and the opportunity to meet fans. It was especially gratifying for Self-Reference ENGINE to win the Citation, as Enjoe-san was a collaborator of Project Itoh’s, whose Harmony won a couple of years ago.

Here is EnJoe-san’s speech, in Japanese and English:

Thank you. That I am standing here with you today is thanks to a great deal of happenstance, and the good will of a great number of people.

Some of you may find my English difficult to understand, but I will be happy to show you this piece of paper when I am finished speaking.

わたしが NorwesCon にきてみようかなとはじめて思ったのは、2010年に、Project Itoh の “Harmony”がこの賞にノミネートされたときでした。結局そのときは間に合わず、USTREAMの向こうから、みなさんのことを眺めていました。今こうして直接お会いすることができ、とても嬉しいです。
The first time I thought about coming here to Norwescon was back in 2010, when the book Harmony, by my friend Project Itoh, was nominated for this award. I was unable to attend in person that year, but I watched on the Internet via USTREAM. It makes me very happy to be here myself this year.

その後たまたま旅行することになったSan Franciscoで、Japan Town の写真をtwitter に upしなかったら、Haikasoru の人たちと会うこともなく、この本の英訳を担当してくれた、テリー・ギャラハーと出会うこともなかったでしょう。
In the meantime, if I had not traveled to San Francisco, and if I had not uploaded to Twitter a photo I took of Japantown there, I would never have encountered the people of Haikasoru, and I would never have met Terry Gallagher, who translated this book.

I have to say, it is Terry who wrote this translation, and I cannot understand what is written here. Right here, what it says is: “Terry is an amazing human being.”

Terry, thank you very much.

More than anything else, I also wish to thank all of you who have read my book.

There is a lot more very interesting science fiction in Japan that has not yet been translated. Most of it is much more difficult than my own book, harder to read, mathematically more contrived, with even less of a narrative thread, and even more soporific. I am kidding.

I am very grateful for everything. Thank you all very much.

And here is a YouTube video of the ceremony, including readings by all the nominees. (Enjoe-san’s reading is the last of the bunch, if you want to skip forward.)

If you missed all the fun at Norweson, please know that you can still see Toh EnJoe in America. He has several reading events in New York, along with Hideo Furukawa, author of the Haikasoru hardcover Belka, Why Don’t You Bark?

[EVENT 1] Saturday, May 3, 2014, 2-4pm

Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street, New York
Monkey Business–Japan/America: Writers’ Dialogue
Dialogues between Hideo Furukawa and Laird Hunt, and between Toh EnJoe and Matthew Sharpe

Tickets: $10 Asia Society & PEN members; $12 students & seniors; $15 non-members.

[PEN info]
Matthew Sharpe and Laird Hunt join Hideo Furukawa and Toh EnJoe, two of Japan’s most exciting writers today, for another intriguing cross-cultural encounter. The conversation will be facilitated by Motoyuki Shibata and Ted Goossen, the editors/translators of Monkey Business, the acclaimed English-language anthology of newly translated Japanese writing, the fourth issue of which is scheduled to coincide with the Festival.

Co-sponsored by Asia Society, The Japan Foundation, A Public Space, and Monkey Business.

[EVENT 2] Monday, May 5, 2014, 12:50-2:05pm
Baruch College (Room to be fixed later)
One Bernard Baruch Way
(55 Lexington Ave at 24th St)
New York, NY 10010

Toh EnJoe, Hideo Furukawa, and Roland Kelts (commentator)
The Japanese writers discuss and read their work to Prof. Suzuki’s students.

[EVENT 3] Monday, May 5 2014, 7pm-
BookCourt, 163 Court Street, Brooklyn
Readings by EnJoe, Furukawa, Hunt, and Sharpe

Moderated by Kelts

If you weren’t in Seattle, and won’t be in New York, you can at least play the home game. Several EnJoe stories have been translated into English and are available free online.

“Harlequin’s Butterfly” at Asymptote.

“The History and Decline of the Galactic Empire” at Words Without Borders.

“A to Z Theory” (from Self-Reference ENGINE) at Strange Horizons.

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Q/A with a translator: Terry Gallagher

Here at Haikasoru, we are thrilled with Self-Reference ENGINE, one of the most innovative works of science fiction, in any language, published in recent memory. We’ve already interviewed the physics consultant and gave the world a sample by publishing A to Z TheoryM with our friends at Strange Horizons, and now we’re pleased to offer you this brief Q/A with translator Terry Gallagher!

A bit about Terry: after a fifteen-year career as a foreign correspondent and financial editor in Tokyo, Bonn, and New York, Terry Gallagher returned to a road not taken: translation. For over a decade now, from his home on Cape Cod, he has been working mainly for financial institutions. He first met Toh EnJoe in January 2012, and joined the celebration when the author won the Akutagawa Prize. That night, Toh EnJoe told him that of all his published works, it was Self-Reference ENGINE, his very first full-length work, that he was most anxious to see published first in English.

While still a journalist, Gallagher translated two stories for the ground-breaking anthology Monkey Brain Sushi, one of which was republished in the Penguin Book of Erotic Stories by Women. His first translation of a novel for Viz Media was Be With You, by Ichikawa Takuji, which was followed by its manga version. Then came many short stories, in two single-author volumes – The Stationmaster (Poppoya) by Asada Jiro, and ZOO by Otsuichi – as well as other anthologies. As an editor/researcher, he assisted author Martha Sherrill with Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain, the tale of the man who rescued the Akita breed from all-but-certain extinction. His personal heroes are Han Shan and Marcus Aurelius.

Q. Do you read much science fiction? What novels or stories would you compare SELF-REFERENCE ENGINE to?

A. At different times in my life, I have read a fair amount of science fiction. As I translated Self-Reference ENGINE, I was very impressed by the breadth and depth of Toh EnJoe’s reading, and general knowledge, but I have to say it is quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I think the works it is closest to are those of the Japanese writers like Kunihiko Kaneko and Project Itoh, not yet household names in the West, that Toh EnJoe is closest to. The Japanese edition of the book closes with a commentary by editor Atsushi Sasaki, who compares SRE to works by Greg Egan, Ted Chiang, Chohei Kanbayashi and Tobi Hirotaka, but I have not yet had a chance to read those writers.

SRE is truly post-modern, in that it seems to subsume much of Western and Japanese literature. It is science fiction, but it’s also bigger than that. The text makes allusions, some explicit, some deeply hidden, to writers from Arthur Conan Doyle and Freud, to Jorge Luis Borges and H.P. Lovecraft. The construction of the narrative plays tricks that remind me of authors such as Italo Calvino or John Barth. Several of the stories are reminiscent of Kafka, and Flatland, and even The Little Prince. In a way, I think the book that SRE most closely resembles is not science fiction at all, it is straight-up science writing: Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. But EnJoe, a PhD physicist himself, has chosen to use the language of fiction rather than expository science writing. Something I’ve heard about, but haven’t read, is the Change series, by S.M. Stirling. Those books deal with a world-altering Event that seems comparable to some of the things that go on in SRE.

Q. Around the office, we often hear that some text makes more sense in Japanese. Sometimes though, as in the case of Toh EnJoe’s story “Endoastronomy” in THE FUTURE IS JAPANESE, we heard that it made more sense to bilingual readers in English! In which language is SRE best understood, and can you give us an example of a tricky part of translation?

A. Well, one of the key phrases of the book is one that neither Japanese nor English readers are likely to have encountered before: in Japanese, 巨大知性体, which I have rendered in English as “giant corpora of knowledge.” I’m fairly sure Toh EnJoe is the originator of this term, which seems appropriate to the age of Google.

The names of various giant corpora of knowledge reflect the profound breadth of Toh EnJoe’s imagination. One is Yggdrasil, whom I learned from this book was the Tree of Life in Old Norse mythology, connecting the nine universes. Others are Sarutahiko – a name from ancient Japanese mythology – Hildegard von Bingen, and Pentecoste II. I think you get the idea. I spent a lot of time poring through Wikipedia as I was working on this.

My Japanese friends who have read his work in Japanese tell me they find the language of the book quite strange, not normal Japanese. Classic postwar Japanese writers like Yukio Mishima and Yasunari Kawabata are said to be easier to read in English translation because some things that can be left ambiguous or diaphanous must be made clearer in English, for reasons that have to do with the pure mechanics of the language. For example, English sentences must have subjects, but Japanese sentences do not suffer that limitation. So the translator working from Japanese into English sometimes has to make compromises that, for better or worse, end up “adding clarity.” It’s a terrible thing, as my grandmother used to say. People say that Haruki Murakami’s work in Japanese reads as if it were translated from some other language. In an interview earlier this year, Toh EnJoe himself said that his own work, in Japanese, also reads as if it were translated.

We all bring our own subjective experience to reading, and I cannot really tell you whether other bilingual readers will enjoy this book better in Japanese or in English. That’s kind of a hypothetical question for most people, who really have no choice. The value of translation is not that it says “A=B.” The value of translation is that it says, “Let me give you something that is something like this other thing that you can never have.” Much as I strove to make the translation a “carbon copy” of the original, just in a different language, there is no disputing the fact that the two are different.

In the Japanese original, the chapter headings, the table of contents, even the title of the book itself, are all in English. I can’t really address how that makes a “normal” Japanese reader feel. Maybe they think it’s cool, maybe they think it’s pretentious, maybe they think it’s just normal. My friends are perhaps more accustomed than most Japanese to dealing with things foreign, but even they find that a bit unusual. But Japan is all about inside/outside, uchi/soto, domestic/foreign. And this whole book seems to be very attuned to things that are going on outside Japan, in both form and content.

In the first few pages of the translation, there is a passage that reads:

“Once upon a time, somewhere, there lived a boy and a girl.”
“Once upon a time, somewhere, there lived boys and girls.”
“Once upon a time, somewhere, there lived no boy and no girl.”
“Once upon a time…lived.”
“Once upon a time.”

The Japanese is:


Even if you don’t read Japanese, you can see the repetition of the patterns. I think it is fair to say that in the original Japanese, this passage is pure word play, and as a translator I can barely begin to convey, in English, what is really going in here in Japanese. All I can tell you is what it says, and even that, less than perfectly. The author is messing with the conventions of storytelling, and the conventions of grammar, to mess with his readers’ heads, to shake them and say, “This book is going to be like nothing else you’ve ever read.”

Another example would be Chapter 15, entitled “Yedo”, which I hope at least some readers recognize is the old name for Tokyo. A smaller number, however, are likely to realize that the name of the protagonist, Hatchobori, is a section of Tokyo even today, redolent with historical and sociological associations. Yedo is the fifteenth story in the book, and its plot actually revolves around the factorization of the number 15, and mind games that play on 15 in both mathematical and linguistic ways that I fear I may have utterly failed to convey in English. But what can a poor translator do? Just try to give a glimpse through a smudgy window at what lies on the other side.

In the story “Freuds”, it is no coincidence that there are 22 dead Freuds under the floorboards: that is the number of chapters in the book. Mathematics is Toh EnJoe’s second language. English is his third.

Editorial note: you must read the “stories” in this book in order, because the book is disordered.

Q. SRE is a non-linear story about a non-linear, shattered, time-space continuum. Did that provide any special translation challenges?

A. Well, the non-linear nature of the story in SRE was not really a problem. As a translator, I just try to break it down, sentence by sentence, and tell the reader what it says. But the non-linear nature of the time-space continuum within the stories qualifies as a huge challenge. The story Traveling is the one that deals most explicitly with forward/reverse travel in time, in the form of a joystick that controls the movement of spaceships in dogfight hijinks that that traverse time as well as space. The human pilots may be shooting themselves in the tail. And they only think they are controlling the spacecraft. Really they are the pawns of the giant corpora of knowledge that are masterminding wars where the various sides locked in conflict are citizens, not of neighboring territories, but of parallel universes. This was quite confusing to me the first several times I read it. As I translated each chapter, I sent the drafts to the author, who read them and gave me his feedback. I then did a rewrite and sent this to you (Nick Mamatas at Viz), and did another rewrite incorporating your comments.

The story “Coming Soon” is written like a screenplay for a pastiche of surrealist films by different directors. Names and ideas may carry over from one section of this story to the next, or refer to other stories in the book. But does that mean they point to the “same” characters? Maybe, maybe not. I think that is the point that Toh EnJoe is making about story-telling. The perennial narrative that is our consciousness is not linear. It loops back, repeats itself, varies, and shoots off in different directions. Then it may loop back again and explore another avenue. This book may be like that.

Late in the process of drafting the translation, I made a decision to give the book a “narrative present” tense, aligning it with the “present” of the reader, and at the same time making the story in a way ideal, or abstract, like Plato’s Cave. I had done the same thing with “Endoastronomy”. We usually use the past tense to tell stories in English when we are relating something meant to be understood as “actual experiences.” But the present tense has an immediacy, a vibrancy, an excitement.

Q. The chapters can be fruitfully read as independent short stories, to a greater or lesser extent. Do you have a favorite chapter? Tell us a bit about it.

A. There are several chapters that I like “best,” for different reasons. I like the framing story involving the innocent love triangle between Rita, James and Richard. It pops up in several chapters in the book, sometimes in disguise. It may be the closest thing to a conventional “story” in the whole book, and it reminds me vaguely of the Back to the Future movies, but on a whole different level of discourse. Perhaps because I myself live near the beach I like Echo, which is the story of a neglected slab of metal corroding on a beach that is actually an old computer to which a Nobel-prize-winning scientist transferred her consciousness, and then disappeared into the depths of cyber-silence. And I like “Infinity”, in which Rita and her dying grandfather play a game of weekly riddles, ultimately revealing that we are each at one with the universe. I like “Ground 256” because this tale of mayhem in the form of persistently intrusive objects that spring up spontaneously overnight from other dimensions reminds me of what seems to be happening on my hard drive. I also like “Sacra”, which has an ending that’s kind of like the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the astronaut ends up in a lonely but comfortably appointed place to die. Perhaps not apparent at first glance, the title of this chapter is a pun on the Japanese word sakura, for cherry trees, cherry blossoms, which were dear in samurai culture as a symbol of the transient nature of life.

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ZOO by Otsuichi / Translation by Terry Gallagher


There are eleven stories in ZOO, each one more twisted than then the proceeding one. Award-winning horror novelist Brian Keene calls the collection “Bradbury-like.” We like that. Throw in a little science fiction and dark fantasy, and you’ve got a beguiling brew of psychological weirdness from Otsuichi, one of Japan’s hottest young writers. The book is available today (Sept. 15). Pick up a copy on your way home from work or school. You won’t regret it.

A lot of Haikasoru readers are interested in the process of translation. As we all know, translation is a tricky business. It’s not just a word-to-word equation. Translators have to wrestle with neologisms, cultural currency. and ever-changing Japanese hipster colloquialisms to produce an English equivalent that sounds like what the Japanese author would write if they wrote in English. Terry Gallagher is one of the best Japanese-to-English translators in the business and we were fortunate to nab him for our ZOO project. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about the art of translation.

Do you do any warm-up exercises before tackling a translation assignment? In other words, what sort of prep work is involved when translating a novel from Japanese to English? I know, for example, you had access to the ZOO movie before you started your assignment.

I do like to watch films or TV clips or YouTube or whatever, related to the books I work on, if they’re available. That was the case with Be With You [by Takuji Ichikawa], and there were two films based on short stories from the Poppoya [The Stationmaster] collection. Watching them helps flesh out the characterization, and the landscape/settings—at least for my own mental image. You can never have too much information, even if ultimately it doesn’t have a direct effect on the translation. I also do Internet research on the authors and their work, both in Japanese and to see what else is already available in English. My translations are always based on the text in front of me. I want to say “solely” on the text, but that is an unrealistic ideal.

Having access to the ZOO film was especially interesting, because each short segment was done by a different director in a different style. So it was an extra-added dimension of insight into what’s been going on in Japanese film lately.

As mentioned, you’ve previously translated a romance novel and a collection of short stories by Jiro Asada for VIZ Media. Can you talk about how these assignments were substantially different than working on ZOO.

These different projects could scarcely have been more different from one another, but that’s exactly what makes the whole business so interesting: the different varieties of language, different outlook on life, different thrust of the original work. I listen to music while I translate, and my music collection is always on shuffle, a giant salad of different genres: world, jazz, classical, new acoustic. The only rule is, “no words I can understand.” My tastes in reading are equally catholic: tentacles in all directions. It’s the mix that gives it a pulse.

The ZOO project was particularly interesting because it mixed so many different elements even within itself: the cute, the appalling, the introspective, the truly gruesome. For over 100 years now, Japanese culture has thrived and grown by voraciously taking in elements from all over the world and giving them its own spin, very post-modern. Otsuichi fits right in with that curve, and for that reason I think Western readers will find him unique.

Were there any particular challenges you faced while working on the ZOO stories?

Of the several literary translation projects I’ve worked on, ZOO was probably the farthest removed from my personal taste. But I can be a professional about that. In the end, “invisibility” is a certain ideal that translators aspire to. You want to erase yourself. It’s about the work, and the choices the author has made. So, I had to work hard at finding language that seemed suitable for the ZOO stories that wasn’t necessarily the kind of language that comes most naturally to me. It had to be simple, but powerful.

Each of the ZOO stories contains a twist. Did these twists present any problems for you? For example, were you cognizant of revealing too much too soon?

The plot twists are a very important narrative device in the ZOO stories, an indispensable aspect. Otsuichi creates a certain setting, generally bizarre in some way. Then he creates expectations that derive from that setting, and then he messes with them. Without spoiling too much, I can say the whole book could have been titled “Death Does the Twist.”

Things like that are not a translation problem. The translator is always relying on the author to handle those issues in the way the author sees fit. Some plot elements that will be crucial to the ending are telegraphed early in a story, but the translator’s job is very straightforward: to render the story in English so that it recapitulates the original Japanese as closely as possible.

Otsuichi plays around with his narrative voice in each story. How well do you think those voices were captured in your translation?

If you’re asking me if I think I did a good job, all I can say is, of course I do. And all the feedback so far has been good. Now it’s up to the readers to decide.

You’re right, the narrative voice is different in each of the ZOO stories. That variety is a strong element of the collection’s appeal. And the fact that Otsuichi achieves this with relatively simple language is a sign of his skill. His concerns are primal, they’re visceral, but there’s also a strong, implicit psychological angle that I think people will readily relate to.

Suddenly there’s a lot of interest in Otsuichi in the United States. After your experience translating ZOO, can you explain why this author has captured the attention of English-language readers?

Otsuichi is unique among Japanese writers, and I can’t think of another writer like him anywhere else today. But he deals with universal themes: family, longing, death, the drive to survive. The ways he writes about these things will appeal especially to horror fans, and they won’t be to everyone’s taste. I’m sure a deer standing transfixed on the highway, unable to decide whether to advance or retreat, would tell you at a certain moment that the headlights are fascinating. And then, WHAM!

I presume you mostly read Japanese fiction in its original language. But what’s it like for you to read Japanese books in English? Can you turn off your translation super powers and enjoy the experience? Or are you hypercritical?

You mean like “suspending my disbelief?” I enjoy reading Japanese, and I’ve been doing it for years now, but it’s still harder work for me than reading English. I enjoy reading the work of other translators. I read more Japanese literature in translation than in the original, and I generally do so with great admiration. I like the fact that other people are working hard to make this literature approachable for a whole new swath of the global community, and I like seeing the approaches other people take in bridging some technical issues between the two languages: the different use of tenses, the things that are left unstated in Japanese, the details that must sometimes be filled in to have the English sentence make sense. I seldom close-read another translator’s work with the translation in one hand and the original in the other, but I sometimes like to try to imagine the original Japanese as I read an English translation.

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