Fiction translation – letting the narrative live

This talk will be based on my experience of translating Hisashi Inoue’s Shinshaku Tono Monogatari – Tales from a Mountain Cave.

The book is set in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, where the author lived as a young man, and which was to be devastated by the tsunami a year after his death. Related in name and background detail to Kunio Yanagita’s folklore classic Tono Monogatari, Inoue’s is nevertheless a quite distinct book, with a focus on entertainment.

My hope when translating was to make the English version attractive to a wide range of readers. While maintaining cultural otherness, I wanted to ensure that the burden of cultural difference would not impede enjoyment of the lively and engaging spirit of the text.

The talk will address various types of cultural difference encountered, with contextualised examples of methods used to deal with such differences.


By agreement with the author’s widow, royalties on the translation are donated towards education and sports projects in Kamaishi.


Book review extracts:

'Intriguing, enchanting, poignant.' Japan Times 
‘Wonderful. This magnificent collection.' Haikugirl

'Stunning' Nihon Distractions 
'Masterful' Found in Translation 
'Funny and surprising. A real page-turner.' The Journal 
'Colourful, charming, and highly entertaining. Outrageous stories, charming prose.'  Contemporary Japanese Literature