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I CAN SPEAK

Osamu Dazai

Pain is the night when we submit. The morning when we give up. Is this world only the toil of giving
up? The endurance of desolation? This is how youth gets worm-eaten, and in dark alleyways, happiness
too appears and fades away to nothing.
I'd lost the voice for my own song, and for a while I'd lived aimlessly in Tokyo. At the same time, even
though I'd 'lost my voice', somehow I'd started write down something that I might call my 'mutterings of
life'. Little by little, following the road that might advance my work, I could only wonder what kind of
state I'd got into, judging by the end product. But, I'd been granted something resembling self-belief, I
started on the long novel that I'd been planning.
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Last year in September, I rented a room at a tea-house called 'One Nation' , high in a mountain pass
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at Misaka in Koushuu, and there I got on with my work, a little at time . Somehow, I'd written almost a
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hundred pages, and when I read them over, they weren't all that badly written. With fresh energy ,
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under Misaka's bitterly cold sun, I boldly promised myself that I would not return to Tokyo ere the
perfection of my manuscript.
I'm prone to making stupid promises. Through September, October and November, Misaka's cold air
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became intolerable. Then, the lonely nights just kept coming . I agonised continually over what to do.
This time, I would not break the rash promise that I'd made to myself, so however much I wanted to flee
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back to Tokyo or break my vow, I just lived within my means, up in the mountains . I decided to go to
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down Koufu. Koufu , I thought, is even warmer than Tokyo, so could pass the Winter soundly there.
I went down to Koufu. Things improved. I had no more strange coughs. In a boarding house on the
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edge of town, I took a room which caught the sun. When I sat at the desk , I got a good feeling . Once
again, I got on with my work, bit by bit.
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From noon, when I'd be working alone on my curmudgeonly writings, a young women's chorus
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could be heard. I'd put my pen down and listen in. It must have been from the the thread factory that
was one alleyway from the boarding house. The women who worked there must have been singing while
they worked. There was one especially good voice amongst them, taking the lead. It seemed one voice

1. I chose this particular meaning of '天下' since the name of the tea-house might have been chosen to
reflect the nationalist mood fostered since the Meiji era.
2. I know that sentence length is a pretty important peregotive of the author, but some of these are just
too long in the original to put neatly into English. There was some controversy about Translators of
Murakami, particularly between Birnbaum's short sentecnes and Jay Rubin's long but faithful ones.
Anyone got any ideas about this issue?
3. I considered translating the verb '得る' as 'in reciept of' , 'getting', or 'gaining', but in the end, I just
omitted it.
4. I chose this archaic word to reflect the old fashioned 'まい' and 'させぬ' in the quoted speech.
5. This is interpreted a bit, but I think it's what he was getting at with 'あのころは、心細い夜がつづい
た'.
6. I'm not sure I've handled this sentence very well, I paticularly didn't understand the last clause, is it an
idiom? Anyone else's rewrite is welcome: '自分で勝手に、自分に約束して、いまさら、それを破れず、東
京へ飛んで帰りたくても、何かそれは破戒のような気がして、峠のうえで、途方に暮れた。'
7. I chose this particular construction to reflect the emphasis which the original 'なら' phrasing seems to
suggest.
8. The original sentence contains 'みて', so I wondered if he wasn't referring to the first time he went into
the room and literally 'tried' sitting at the desk. Can anyone clarify this?
9. The original was ''よかったと思った, so I used some latitude in this clause.
10. 'ぼそぼそ' seems to be an adverb linked with 'つぶやく' , am I right? Is this a good choice?
11. Of course it's not very clear in the Japanese text, but i'm not too sure about the tense here, if he's
describing something habitual or something that's acutally happening 'now'. Has anyone got any ideas?
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above the ordinary . What a fine voice, I'd think. I even felt that I wanted to thank her. I wanted to
scramble over the wall of the factory and have just one look at the mistress of that voice.
I wanted to thank her sincerely: Do you know how much you've helped this desolate man every day
with your song? You don't know how much you've encouraged my work, do you? I thought about
scribbling it down and scrunching it up, hurling it through the factory window.
But if I'd have done that, it would have been awful if the girl had have been so surprised that she lost
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her voice from stage fright . It would be sin for my words of thanks to besmirch such an innocent
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song. Alone, I would fret over this .
Maybe it was love... It was a cold night in February. Suddenly a man's rough, drunken voice piped up.
I strained to listen.
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'Hey don't take the piss ! What's so damn funny? Just 'cos I don't drink very often, it's no reason to
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laugh at me. Ai kyan supiiku ingurishu! I've been going to night classes y'know. Did you know that, Sis ?
Betcha didn't. I even kept it secret from Mum, I've just been slipping out quietly to night class. It's 'cos I
want to be somebody, yeah? So what's funny Sis? What's so damn funny? Jeez, I'm headin' out to the
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front soon. Don't be surprised when I do! Your drunken little bro, only good for doing drudge ? I don't
think so. I've already decided to go to the front. But, Ai kyan supiiku ingurishu. Kyan yuu spiiku
ingurishuu? Yesu, Ai kyan. Good eh? I'm a guy who can speak English. Come on Sis, give it to me
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straight, I'm a good kid, yeah? Mum never says anything good to me.
I opened the sliding window a little and peered down at the alley. At first, I thought I saw white plum
blossoms. I was mistaken. It was the kid's white rain coat. The kid looked cold in his unseasonal raincoat,
and he was standing with his back up against the factory wall. Above him, there was a lone woman half
hanging out of a window in the factory, staring at the drunken kid.
The moon was out, but neither the kid's face or the woman's face were clear. The woman's face
seemed dimly white and round, laughing. The kid's face was dark, and still gave a childish impression.
That drunken English, 'Ai kyan supiiku ingurishu', struck me so hard as to be painful. In the beginning it
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was everyday, common. The everyday is made of this kind of thing . Suddenly, the forgotten song came
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rushing back to me.
It was a pretty trivial little scene, but to me it was hard to forget.
Whether the woman I saw that night was the woman with the fine voice, I do not know. Probably it

12. I was very confused by this sentence. Does he mean 'one voice above the crowd', like it's a superior,
noble voice, or does he mean 'one voice of the crowd', i.e., just one o' the girls, or simply 'a voice in the
crowd'? It was the latter than why would he have a 'feeling' about it? Here's the original: '鶏群の一鶴(い
っかく)、そんな感じだ。'
13. He doesn't say what kind of fright, but It was this kind and not 'stalker fear', since Dazai is usually a
pretty self concious individual and I generally expect him to read the same feeling into others; but maybe
I'm being lead astray by biography here?
14. I know there's a better word for this but I can't put my finger on it! 濁らせる
15. He doesn't specify what he is fretting over, but I assume it's the things that he's just mentioned.
16. Not sure if the non-British will understand this, but this is a very common idiom meaning 'make fun
of'.
17. It says '' but I was under the impression that in Japanese families people addressed each other from
the point of view of the youngest child, so if this voice is male, then he could be the oldest boy (at this
stage anyway, since it becomes clear later on that he's younger).
18. Not to sure about this one.
19. I don't really get this sentence because I don't understand the contraction. Any takers?:おふくろなん
て、なんにも判りゃしないのだ。
20. I'm pretty certain my translation is all wrong here. I don't get what the 'kore' refers back to really
understand what he's trying to say. The original: はじめに言葉ありき。よろずのもの、これに拠りて成
る。
21. The original might be literally paraphrased as 'I invouluntarily had the feeling that I would remember
the forgotten song'. I don't know if I'm missing something with 'ki ga suru' here?
wasn't.

Showa 14 February.