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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The History of Russian-to-Japanese Translators from the Edo Period Onwards

  • Author(s): Fukuyasu, Yoshiko
  • Advisor(s): Iwasaki, Shoichi
  • Kagan, Olga
  • et al.

This dissertation presents the history of Russian-to-Japanese translation, from the end of the Edo period to the present through descriptions of translators' lives and activities. It's specific concern focuses on the methods of translation used by the translators.

It has been argued that recently a free style of easy-to-read translation has become more common, while the importance of word-for-word translation has been decreasing. These two dominant methods - "word-for-word, literal" and "free" translations - are defined after examinations of firstly, the historical distinctions of the two opposing notions, and then, the translators' preferred methods, with a goal of clarifying the processes involved in the development of "free" style translation. This examination covers literature and song, both of which have influenced Japanese culture.

Chapter 2 provides an overview of the early history of Russian education in Japan, and describes the roles of the Russian Orthodox Church and Narodniks in establishing the foundation of Russian language and literature education. Chapter 3 deals with Futabatei Shimei's methods of translation and his work for the Genbun-itchi movement which modernized written Japanese. The chapter also reviews the activities of Futabatei's contemporaries and later generations of translators. Chapter 4 covers the leading translators who worked actively after World War II, including former POWs in Siberia. A dispute on the two translation methods is also analyzed. In Chapter 5, as a result of examinations of present-day translators' activities through interviews, I demonstrate two processes that lead to a "free" type of translation: the `audio source' process, which directly leads to contents-based "free" translation, and the `written source' process which incorporates the "word-for-word, literal" translation process as well as the "process of assimilation to contemporary Japanese."

In conclusion, the new, easy to understand "free" type of present-day translation usually begins with the process of "word-for-word, literal" translation, but the end result appears to be "free" style due to the tendency of present-day translators to emphasize their originality in the pursuit of assimilating the text to natural, contemporary Japanese, as style which is demanded by readers and publishers.

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