Part II: The Translator at Work
there was no need to rush yet another into print, especially when somany contemporary novels had to be translated as quickly as possible.Finally, there was the picture I had constructed of myself at sixty. By that stage, I thought, life will be more leisurely, and I can enjoy playing with
in the same way that old men enjoy puttering around with bonsai on their verandas. When I was in my thirties, the world of sixtyseemed absurdly far away.Once the reality of the problems and possibilities of that age hadcome into clear view, however, I became acutely aware that “bonsai on the veranda” wasn’t going to ﬁt my situation at all. When I stopped to think about it, I could see clearly that no sudden, drastic change was go-ing to take place when I turned sixty; for better or worse, I would be thesame man continuing the same very undramatic life. That being thecase, I reconsidered my position and decided there was no need to wait.Moreover, at the risk of sounding presumptuous, I had gained a fairdegree—only a degree, mind you—of conﬁdence as a translator. The timehad come, I realized, for me to tackle
. I could feel it in my bones.There was another reason, too, which probably has something to do with my age: the number of current works I felt the urgent need to trans- late was gradually shrinking. Most of the important books by writerscrucial to my generation were already available in Japanese. As for thenew crop of younger novelists, well, I could leave their work to a newgroup of eager young translators. Such a move would allow me the lux-ury of stepping slightly outside the current of the times to translate works I had long dreamed of putting my hand to. This would not mean that I would forgo contemporary literature altogether. Indeed, I fullyexpected—or at least hoped for—new works to pop up that I would want to translate. What would certainly change, though, was the ratio be- tween old and new: now classics and semiclassics would come to make up the greater part of my repertoire. These were the texts I had kept close athand over the years, the books I loved. Most of them, of course, alreadyexisted in standard translations; yet if I could refresh them—“wash themanew,” as we say—even slightly, my efforts would have been worth it.My translation of J. D. Salinger’s
The Catcher in the Rye,
which I pub- lished several years ago, is part of this “rewashed” series, as is, of course, this version of
The Great Gatsby.
I have no desire to take exception with the translations of my predecessors. Each is outstanding in its own way.In fact, if a reader who had grown attached to a novel through one of