EDWARD GOREY in JAPAN
Translation or Transformation: A Chat with Motoyuki Shibata
TRANSLATION OR TRANSFORMATION
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A WorldCat view of Prof. Motoyuki Shibata's works
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So, perhaps an appropriate translation through poetry could be possible, but may be hard to do, especially where comedy and wordplay are crucial. The Japanese translator would have to be wildly creative, or possess a literary arsenal deep and wide enough to handle even the most blatant syntactical insurgency in Her Majesty’s English. Haiku, tanka and like forms may turn out to be a godsend in sidestepping our translation woes.
Edward Gorey had a special affinity for The Mikado. He created some very memorable costume designs and stage sets for the Carnegie-Mellon Drama Department’s 1983 season, much of which is still in use. In many ways, the Gorey literary oeuvre and Gilbert & Sullivan’s plays remind me of each others. Both are deeply rooted in the Victorian sensibility. One can see Gilbert and Sullivan stage faces, their longing glances and melodramatic poses, the flamboyant and exotic costume designs, in much of Gorey’s art. Gorey’s tiny tales are often Victorian-era cautionary tales, warning of dark unpleasantries lurking just below the crowded sidewalks of civilized men. They are often written in couplets and accentual-syllabic verse.
As in W.S. Gilbert’s work, Gorey used many of the same literary forms popular in Victorian and Edwardian society – poetry, limericks, nonesense, etc. Several books, like The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Eclectic Abcedarium and The Glorious Nosebleed incorporate rhyme and wordplay, besides being abecedariums. So they may be as difficult to translate into Japanese as the libretto for The Mikado. But instead of working with a musical score, Gorey used his art to set the stage for his words. His art doesn’t just mimick his words, as do most book illustrations, but work in tandem, much like a musical score or soundtrack to a movie. Played out in the mind, Gorey's stories possess the same appeal as Gilbert’s libretto. If only Gorey had Gilbert’s Sullivan!