Matt of No-sword has a post, typically both informative and hilarious, about a squabble over a Donald Ritchie review of The Tower of London: Tales of Victorian London, by Natsume Soseki, translated and introduced by Damian Flanagan. Matt quotes a couple of magisterially dismissive remarks by Ritchie like “The value of the present collection is in the fact that even if it is negligible the author is not, and thus all information is welcome” and adds:

Sort of “yes, yes, throw it on the Souseki pile”, which you have to admit is understandable, given that he’s spent his entire career introducing Japanese culture to English-speaking audiences. He must be getting sick of the early modern Japanese canon by now, particularly its minor outlying works. (Even by inconceivably major authors.)

He then quotes a couple of letters sent to the Japan Times in response to the review, one of which, from Flanagan himself (“His words’ minced:unminced ratio is very small”), complains about Ritchie’s allegedly mistranslated bits of Souseki, whereupon our indefatigable blogger digs up the actual Souseki bits in Japanese. I wish he had gone on to give his opinion of the translations, since I’m certainly in no position to do so, but it’s interesting stuff anyway.

Incidentally, Matt’s doing a freewheeling translation (blog-style, with the latest entry at the top) of Souseki’s famous Botchan, finding himself dissatisfied with the existing ones. He promises that it “won’t be a polished, balanced translation” and intends to finish it by the end of March; should be a good read.

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