Reading about Yanase Naoki’s translation of Finnegans Wake into Japanese makes me wish I knew the language:
To get an idea of how Yanase has added his wordplay to Joyce’s, look at the first word, “riverrun.” Yanase has emulated Joyce here by creating a new Japanese word composed of the kanji for “river” and “run.” However, the pronunciation of this kanji compound (indicated as sensou by the furigana above it) is also a homonym of the word for “war.” Yanase explains that war and conflict are recurring themes throughout Finnegans Wake—from the Fall of Adam and Eve to the present. But sensou can also mean “ship window,” an image linked to the river…
The legendary Japanese translation of Finnegans Wake was released in cheap paperback format and nobody told me. I had to find out via a bookstore display in honour of St Patrick’s day. That hurts, Japan.
Anyway, I found it. After I came to, I bolted to the cashier and bought all three volumes instantly, partly because I want to reward YANASE Naoki (or his estate. I don’t know.) for his complete freaking insanity, God bless him, and partly because, damn, it’s Finnegans Wake in Japanese, yo.
He goes on to give a brief description of the first thunder word (which he helpfully transliterates).
Incidentally, my first link (for the translation) is part of a site, Japanese in the Age of Technology, that looks extremely useful for anyone trying to learn the language or just interested in how it’s been adapted to the computer age, with brilliant use of Shockwave Flash: the WaPro section, for example, shows you how text was input on the first Japanese word processor. And when I have time I want to fully investigate the section on The Encyclopedia.