Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Sudden Schedule Change and Viet Nam Books

The original schedule would have made me stay in Johor until tomorrow. But I returned to Singapore last Friday. It seems to me that someone booked me for the entire period during which those (or anybody) from Japan would stay in Johor not really knowing about the nature of work involved this week (no interpretation required). I had no choice but charge the cancellation fee for last Saturday. On Friday (March 1), I will work with two of them in Singapore and Monday next week, I will start working with a medical-equipment engineer from Japan for two weeks also in Singapore (until March 15).

This afternoon, I finished reading Lyndon Johnson’s War and immediately started No Peace, No Honor, both authored by Larry Berman, who is also the author of Perfect Spy. In total, I’ve read more than 50 books related to Viet Nam, including novels, history books and autobiographies. And more are coming.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Burning Out

I’m feeling BURNING OUT. Working as an interpreter means I’m an outsider, but sometimes, I can’t be so. Having worked with a same client and seen much for two years, I am now very pessimistic about the future of this company (my client’s overseas subsidiary). This is all about politics within the company. Who can I believe?

This afternoon , I reached the last page of the Japanese translation of “Paradise of the Blind (Những thiên đường mù).” Then, I’ll continue to read “Perfect Spy” (my second reading).

Friday, February 15, 2019

Back from Senai and Two Different Translations (cont.)

Back from Senai, Johor. I’ll be there again on Monday next week. After working in Singapore on Tuesday, I’ll go there yet again and stay there until February 28.



もう一度、私は日本の若者たちに目をやった。彼らのどこが私たちと違うというのだろう。もし人間が何度か生まれ変わるものだとするならば、彼らの前世はあれほどずば抜けてはいなかったはずだ。聡明さや忍耐力にかけては、アジアの民族はほかのどの民族にもひけをとるものではない。だが運命の女神が微笑んだのは、日本人に対してだけだった。きっと彼らは平穏な星の下に生まれ、運命の嵐に翻弄されずに済んだのだろう。(pp.282-284; Chapter 8

A group of young people strolled by. I noticed them turn their attention to a kiosk, under a tree, that sold gifts and souvenirs. Everyone watched them with an odd mixture of curiosity and respect. A young Russian couple stopped talking and to stare in their direction. Some of the men, less discreet, gaped at then ide-eyed. Suddenly, I too was curious, and stopped to watch.

This group of young Japanese – three boys and two girls – stood chatting on the cobblestone courtyard in front of the kiosk. They must have been about my age. The tallest of the boys had just come out of the kiosk. He shrugged his shoulders; apparently, there wasn’t much of interest to them in that old kiosk. The young man must have been almost six feet tall, an above-average height, even for a Westerner. He had an aquiline nose, but his eyes were Asian. The other two boys weren’t as tall, but they looked almost identical both in size and facial features. All three wore white jackets and silky gray ties.

They reminded me of 1950s film posters advertising karate masters. They were handsome in a funny sort of way. The two girls weren’t as pretty. They wore the same short skirts and jackets, the same bobbed haircut, the same rhinestone bracelets, the same café-au-lait-colored handbags. They exuded confidence and ignored the other people milling around them. They seemed almost accustomed to being stared at, watched with envy. They spoke in hushed tones, their almond-shaped eyes sparkling as they laughed. They had smooth, healthy skin, the glow of well-nourished people.

Japanese: The name alone was like a certificate of respectability, a passport that opened all the doors in the world to them. Just like that.

What did these people have that we didn’t have? Hundreds of faces rose in my memory: those of my friends, people of my generation, faces gnawed with worry, shattered faces; twisted, ravaged, sooty, frantic faces.

Our faces were always taut, lean with fear. The fear that we might not be able to pay for food, or not send it in time, the fear of learning that an aging father or mother had passed away while waiting for our miserable subsidies; the fear that some embassy official just might not…

We had darting, calculating faces: you had to think of everything, weigh everything. All the time.

You had to think to survive, to feed your loved ones, to hustle for a day’s wages sharecropping or sweeping on a train. You had to think too of the life that stretched out ahead, the pain that still waited for you, of a future as obscure and unfathomable as sea fog.

Who could fail to notice these faces in the street among the others so certain of their happiness, their freedom?

Or faces like mine: to be twenty years old and see wrinkles forming on your forehead, dark circles of misery welling under your eyes. Desperate, soulful eyes. To have the eyes of a wild animal, darting about, razor sharp, ready to quarrel over goods at a shop counter or scuffle in a line for food. And there was the shame, the self-loathing, in the mirror of another’s gaze. Life as one endless humiliation.

I watched the Japanese furtively. What was it? What did they have that we didn’t? if it is true that we are born again, passing from one life to the next, then in a previous existence, surely, they were like us. Their intelligence, their perseverance – these are qualities we Asians have in no short supply. All this generation had was a bit of luck. Luck to have been born in peacetime, in a real house, in the right place, under a real roof… (pp. 228-230, Chapter 11)

Aside from the description of these young Japanese or Japanese people in general, these two texts differ. I really wish I could read the original.  

Monday, February 11, 2019

Two Diffrent Translations (cont.)

Another example:

“Toward the end of winter, a tavern opened up on the main road. The young toughs adopted it as their hangout, spent their time shuttling between the beer hall and the state brewery. Food vendors flocked to the street to hawk their snacks, their grilled or boiled peanuts, green papaya salads, and calves’ feet. And little by little, the shop filled up with a new breed of wealthier clients, the cyclo drivers from the provinces, the used-motorcycle-and-bicycle salesmen. Food stalls sprung up selling dog-meat dishes, grilled sausages, dried squid and fish, beef marinated in vinegar and red-hot chilies. The street reeled with these tantalizing aromas. Drunks lurched and staggered, relieving themselves against the walls. The buildings were streaked with streams of rancid urine. On hot days, the stench was overpowering.

Day by day, the street became more and more bustling, breathing life into the nearby market, where food vendors could now reap huge profits. My mother and her friends had visions of getting rich overnight. My mother started to rake in the money. She had already used all the profits to buy metal rods and several thousand bricks. After Tet, she planned to raise the house on stone slabs and build a roof over the terrace. All she had to do was buy the cement and hire the workers.

‘Give me until Tet,’ she promised, beaming at me. She had her confidence back now and no longer felt inferior to her sister-in-law. Still, I couldn’t understand her stubbornness, and I used to plead with her not to worry so much.

‘After Tet, we’ll have a new roof. No more leaks, no more heat. And all without Aunt Tam’s earrings,’ she said.

She grinned just thinking about it. But she never did have much luck. One evening, when I came home from high school, I found her packing her wares.”  (Translated by Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson)








ある日の午後、私が学校から帰ると、母はすでに帰宅して、商売の品を部屋の隅に片づけていた。」(訳者 加藤栄)

Comparing the two translations, I would have to say that the Japanese one is more elaborate and probably more accurate. There is a big difference between “green papaya salads” and パパイヤの酢の物.  There is no text in English:飲み客が増えるにつれ、つまみを売りにくる者たちの数も一挙に膨れ上がり、売られるつまみの種類も急増した。酢の物や落花生のほか」.

Not a cent returned from the Filipina fraudster.部屋の隅に片づけていた。」(訳者 加藤栄)

Comparing the two translations, I would have to say that the Japanese one is more elaborate and probably more accurate. There is a big difference between “green papaya salads” and パパイヤの酢の物.  There is no such text in English:飲み客が増えるにつれ、つまみを売りにくる者たちの数も一挙に膨れ上がり、売られるつまみの種類も急増した。酢の物や落花生のほか」.

Not a cent returned from the Filipina fraudster.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Two Different Translations: I wish I could read the original

Only some time ago, I learned that Paradise of the Blind (Những thiên đường mù) by Duong Thu Huong had been translated into Japanese. The translated book arrived yesterday, and I began reading it today.

I do wish I could understand Vietnamese as I find differences between the two translations. Maybe minor differences, but I would like to find what the original says and how and why these differences occurred.

One example: this is the opening scene in English, translated by Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson

“She looked at me and said:
‘Poor little one. You really don’t have much luck.’ She shook her enormous old head and turned to go. As she shuffled off, the smell of her cheap perfume hung in the room, sticking like glue to the yellowed, peeling walls. I just stood there shivering in my pajamas, staring at the housekeeper’s buxom figure, my head spinning.

I was sick myself; for the last few days I had been racked with fever. I walked with my shoulders hunched over like an old drug addict, my tiny breasts floating under a baggy shirt. The only men in our residence were real relics; they didn’t even bother to stare.”

And the Japanese translation by Kato Sakae (加藤栄):