mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Closer to Christmas

I detest the song Walking in a Winter Wonderland. Also Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, and OMG most definitely Santa Baby, and I hear them everywhere. But let's not talk of unpleasantnesses. The reality of a winter wonderland is yappari not bad at all.

If it were merely an overcast Toronto day with greige sky and grey streets today would be dispiriting indeed (aka why I could never live in Vancouver.) But a light snow is falling, not enough to impede locomotion, just enough to make a nice contrast to the greige and grey. Takes me back all the way to high school, the greyer city Toronto was then, and how much better the solid Presbyterian buildings looked in snow flurries. Takes me back too to the rare Tokyo snowfall, which believe you me impeded locomotion, as well as the Yamanote line and anyone mad enough to go out in a car. "I'm cancelling your class," my boss told me one Saturday after a two inch/ 5 cm dusting. "The mothers won't let their children out in such dangerous conditions." What madness is this, I wondered; and then on the way to the station observed what happens when non-snow tires meet two inches of slushy snow. Feared for my own life once or twice, there being no sidewalks in that end of Nerima.

I think the reason for this mental time travel, and why it seems an age since I walked in light snow merely observing the light snow, is that any time I went walking in the past, up to a year or so ago, as soon as I got into the rhythm of moving my mind naturally started contemplating the current story. All my stories have been composed walking when they weren't composed in the floaty half hour after waking. I don't do that any more, unfortunately; stories must be banged out at the computer entirely left-brainedly. Sic transit inspiratio.

But today was perfect. Walked in snow to an out-of-the-way coffee shop in a refurbished house, with fireplace (gas, of course) and curtains and sofas; had a latte and read the second of Soseki's Ten Nights of Dream, so much more resonant than the first. (And wonder if Kurosawa stole 'Konna yume wo mita' from Soseki.)

'Soseki is so easy even a school child can read him' well excuse me. Possibly that may be true, but Soseki is still not light literature. Neither is Murakami, but Murakami's vocabulary is even easier than those teenaged White Hart novels. Whatever, a certain amount of word tanking is involved in reading Ten Nights of Dream, but it's very satisfying. And I do wonder how it reads in translation, given how strange Soseki's newspaper pieces do. The subjectless sentence is just... weird in English. Uncanny, unchancy; or maybe that came from reading it in tandem with Mushishi 8, a stunning volume.

Or maybe the odd feeling is down to the translator himself, whose vagaries still perplex me. "I cast a glance to one side and noticed that the couch of the servant who had come to warn us in tears was unfolded. At the head of the couch there was another chest of drawers on which a small article of furniture had been placed." Why translate futon as couch, an item which doesn't unfold, and later keep fusuma, kura, and kakemono, translating them in footnotes? And what is this small article of furniture on top of the chest of drawers? Soseki doesn't say, I'm assuming, but the effect is disconcerting. Is it supposed to be there? or has someone stacked a stool on top of the tansu? Never mind the clumsy handling of the subordinate clause 'who had come to warn us in tears'; I probably couldn't have done anything with it either, but a judicious application of commas does seem indicated.

Mhh, and otherwise am having another go at The Mauritius Command which defeated me so badly four years ago. May defeat me again. Yet another uncongenial shipmate with no appreciation of music or wine, interrupting the sweet harmony between Jack and Stephen etc etc, just as in The Thirteen Gun Salute. Really, Mr. O'Brian; surely you must have seen what you were writing?
Tags: japan, manga_10, mushishi, o'brian, place, reading_10, rl_10, soseki, translation

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