4 December 07 | Chad W. Post

The final two posts from the Words Without Borders/Reading the World book club discussion of Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s Mandarins are now online.

In the first, Michael Orthofer discusses the posthumous story “The Life of a Fool” and briefly compares the two available translations (De Wolf’s from Archipelago, Rubin’s from Penguin):

De Wolf: He read a book by Anatole France, his head propped up by a pillow of skepticism exuding a rosy fragrance; the presence in that same pillow of a centaur quite escaped his notice.

Rubin: Pillowing his head on his rose-scented skepticism, he read a book by Anatole France. That even such a pillow might hold a god half-horse, he remained unaware.

I like the De Wolf version considerably better—”pillowing” and “god half-horse” are just jarring, the second sentence-order feels off —but I’m glad to have the Rubin version too. Using it almost as a gloss I think I have a much better idea of what the Japanese original must be like.

The final post focuses on the story “Cogwheels” (or “Spinning Gears” in the Rubin translation).


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