December 20, 2019
“I want to share what I find interesting with others”
Naoko Hosoi on exchange about "An Inventory of Certain Losses". Her passion for reading and for German-language literature led her to literary translation. Now this passion has led her to the Social Translating Project, a “a new, open method of translation”.
Naoko Hosoi studied German at the Keio University in Tokyo and at the University of Cologne. Her passion for reading and for German-language literature led her to literary translation. “I enjoy reading a lot and translating helps me get to grips with books more intensely”, she explains, adding, “and I want to share what I find interesting with others”. That this is a stroke of luck for the Social Translating Project soon became clear. As part of the project, she is translating Judith Schalansky's “An Inventory of Certain Losses” into Japanese and actively participating in the lively digital exchange on the project’s platform, Lectory, with the author and her translator colleagues. “An Inventory of Certain Losses” places high demands on a translator's ability and sense of language, and the abundance of historical, cultural and geographical references requires extensive research. Although Naoko is impressed by the book as a whole and appreciates its diversity of content, she admits that its composition is complex; particularly the preface poses a special challenge. The idea of a register of losses, however, won her over from the start. “The cosmic stance of detachedly observing and writing down everything on earth, whether nature or culture, and the mixture of objective, sober and poetic references, fascinated me.” She is convinced that her translation will be well received in Japan because devoting attention to the transient is a firmly anchored element of the Japanese tradition.
As is usually the case with translators, Naoko also has a near-term deadline for her translation. Without delay, she therefore posted her, as she says herself, “rather many” questions about the text and its references on the project platform. “The author always responded promptly and answered in great detail. Not only did I get a brief explanation, I also often learned a lot more about what lies behind a single word. That was of course a great help for me, or rather an enrichment.” The questions of other translators have also been very enlightening, adds Naoko. She says it was very important for her to meet her colleagues in person during the project launch in April 2019 at Seoul before the online exchange. “It was a good feeling, a kind of reinforcement, that I wasn’t alone but was taking up this challenge together with the others.”
Another opportunity for personal exchange was the 18th Straelen Atrium Talks from May 22 to 26, 2019, during which Judith Schalansky was a guest for several days to work with translators from various countries on her latest book. The four-day joint collaboration was intense and a special experience for Naoko. “The author told us a great deal and talked openly about her work, also about some things a reader may only vaguely suspect but a translator should know. I can now understand that translators from Europe sometimes seem to have different translating questions from those we from Asian countries have.”
Despite the lively digital exchange, translators still have to look up and research a lot at their desks. Naoko often uses internet sources such as Wikipedia, online maps, newspaper articles, websites of communities, museums and archives. Other translation helps include dictionaries, such as a dictionary of colours, or a copy of the book on Armand Schulthess mentioned in Schalansky’s work, which fortunately Naoko found in a second-hand bookshop in Tokyo. “The extensive information – comments, photos, and URLs – that the author provides on the platform, and the minutes of the Atrium Talks in Straelen, have always been of help to me.”
“An Inventory of Certain Losses” was the first book by Schalansky that the Japanese translator read. But after reading this work, Naoko soon read others by the author. “Formally and stylistically very different, but I found several basic ideas and motifs again, I think. It seems to me that they all went into this challenging book.“
Asked what she likes best about translating, Naoko, who lives with her family in Yokohama, has an immediate answer: she can contribute to the transmission of something valuable and takes great pleasure in discovering in a new text a new world hitherto unknown to her and in the many different insights gained through her research. The translation of “An Inventory of Certain Losses”, however, is something special: “I could try out a new, open method of translation. It was a very exciting experience, and it would be marvellous if this method were to become standard in the near future.“