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Translation or Transformation: A Chat with Motoyuki Shibata

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A WorldCat view of Prof. Motoyuki Shibata's works

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Motoyuki Shibata, Professor of American Literature at the University of Tokyo, has performed the translations for most of the Edward Gorey releases from publisher Kawade Shobo Shinsha in Tokyo. A popular and well-respected translator of American literature [see also the East Wing’s Introduction], Shibata’s list of translated authors is very impressive and indeed contemporary: Paul Auster, Kelly Link, Laird Hunt, Rebecca Brown, Ethan Canin, Steven Millhauser, Barry Yourgrau, and the list goes on. He enjoys the modern, if not the more critical and wry American voice. Those who have read his translations say the writing is witty, sharp, insightful and natural – a good match to these amazing authors.

If you look at Shibata's list of publications [see WorldCat view in sidebar] and after taking a deep breath, one realizes the full implication of Shibata’s exercise, that this singular individual has acted in the creation of a new voice to some very talented and special voices already heard (and in Gorey’s case – silenced); as ambassador to authors who originally had no investment or influence in the Japanese culture nor its audience; as a third and intermediate consciousness between the writer and the reader in the creation of a new world, and finally as a guide to a very large bus-load of voracious readers and literary consumers, pointing out the high – and low – points of interest in the literary landscape of America. It’s not surprising then that when confronted, Shibata strikes a humble, figurative “it’s better that I’m not there” posture about translating [quoted from Roger Pulver’s review of “The Other America of Haruki Murakami and Motoyuki Shibata” (2003), a book my Masashi Miura].

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2008 Illustrations by Natsuo Ikegami, Edward Gorey Charitable Trust and Goreyography+WZP. 著作権を所有します。