Famous Japanese novel’s Urdu translation
NISHIMURA was a Japanese student. He took admission to an Urdu certificate course at Karachi University’s Urdu department a few years ago. He already knew enough Urdu to converse with us in Urdu as he had studied it at Daito Bunka University, his alma mater, near Tokyo.Nishimura always carried two dictionaries with him, one Urdu-Japanese dictionary and the other Japanese-Urdu dictionary, and the moment he heard or read a new Urdu word or idiom he reached for his bag and opened both dictionaries, one after another. He would note down the meaning and try to use it in his conversation. Not finding the word or expression in those dictionaries always made him uncomfortable and he would go to a teacher and request him to explain the word. This love of the language soon made him fluent in Urdu and he began writing interesting, short pieces in Urdu.
When the Pakistan-Japan Cultural Association announced its annual Haiku mushaira, or Haiku recital session, Nishimura composed a few Urdu Haikus and sought approval from the teachers. Haiku is a Japanese genre of poetry and unless one understands the Japanese mind and Japanese culture, it is not easy to appreciate a Haiku. Some expressions may sound weird, or even ridiculous, in other languages and cultures as the Japanese people love nature to lengths that may seem strange to us. Nishimura’s all Haikus were good, according to Japanese standards, but we advised him to drop a few as they could have sounded awkward in Pakistani ambience. One of them was about a dog and “his wife”. But another one that we appreciated much spoke volumes about how lonely he felt at the university hostel. It said that when a fly sat on his arm he felt much happy since the fly was a welcome friend that gave him company, sympathising with him. It gave us some idea how someone from Japan may perceive nature. Nishimura stole the show that evening.
It may sound strange in our culture to name oneself ‘Banana’ for the love of banana flowers, but that’s exactly how Banana Yoshimoto, the famous Japanese writer, got her name (her real name is Mahoko Yoshimoto). And that’s exactly how Japanese mind works: nature and its manifestations, in all forms, even frogs and flies, are considered ‘cute’ and ‘lovable’. This love of nature and aesthetic sense is often reflected amply in Japanese literature, too.
Kitchen is a Japanese novel by Banana Yoshimoto that became a sensation soon after its publication in the original Japanese in 1988. Some awards and a couple of Japanese movies based on the novel gave it much publicity and it was translated into English by Megan Backus in 1993. Since then, it has been translated into 35 different languages of the world, Urdu being the latest language that has it translated.
Kitchen, with its simple plot, tells much about the Japanese mind. At the same time, it tells us about the life in modern Japan as well as the lives of young Japanese women. Mikage Sakurai, the heroine in the novel, is a grieving young woman who has lost her grandmother. She tries to find solace in kitchen and culinary skills. The kitchen becomes a window on the world.
The 135-page Urdu translation of the novel, just published by Karachi’s Raheel Publications, is in a language just as simple and plain as its English version. The English version has just 152 pages. Khurram Sohail, the translator, has successfully rendered the simple but elegant tale into Urdu.
Suhail is a Karachi-based journalist and has penned a number of books. One of his books is on music and another is Raza Ali Abedi’s biography. Baaton ki piyali mein thandi chai is a collection of interviews of literary personalities that he recorded. He has taken full advantage of his experience and the translation by the identical name makes one understand the Japanese sensitivities and Japanese culture.
In his preface, Sohail says that “the novel says that if you are an artist, the kitchen can become art gallery. Life may look beautiful from the kitchen window… This novel also presents the modern lifestyle of Japan. Despite being the third largest economy of the world, Japan is a society where people still dream, value one another’s emotions and feel beauty of the nature in their heart”.