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Old 06-28-2005, 08:10 AM   #16
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
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Re: doka of the day translator?

This is a very interesting topic and so I would like to raise some points that I believe are relevant to the issues being discussed here.

1. In Hiroshima University I teach a specialist class on the philosophy of language and this semester we are concentrating on metaphor. The set text is George Lakoff's "Metaphors We Live By" and the point of the class is to see how Lakoff's theories work in Japanese. Lakoff envisions a whole series of metaphor categories (e.g., in English, anger = heat rising in a container) and (a) argues that this is the way that humans order their experience, and (b) as a result suggests that metaphor categories are 'universal' in some way. However, there is a problem. In the Japanese translation of Lakoff's book, the editors go to great lengths to 'edit' Lakoff's examples and supplement the direct translation of the English examples with a translation more appropriate to Japanese: in other words they change the metaphors from English to Japanese, but this makes nonsense of Lakoff's thesis that the categories are 'universal'.

The issue relevant to this thread is how to translate the metaphors, once we know that the writer was using metaphors (and I know well that there is a Japanese tradition of literary metaphors that might also have relevance here).

2. Sidney Anglo, in "Martial Arts in Renaissance Europe", discusses Hans Lichtenauer's poem on medieval sword techniques and body arts. The poem was written in such a way that only those who knew the techniques of his school could understand it, i.e., it was written in some kind of code. Lichtenauer's poem is lost and so the only way we can (a) crack the code and thus (b) understand what Lichtenauer wrote is to make conjectures on the basis of the explanations that his disciples wrote.

The issue relevant to this thread is to gauge the extent to which OSensei used his discourses, and especially his douka, as a code, which can be cracked if you already know whjagt he was talking about.

3. M. Ueshiba followed in a tradition by (a) writing douka and also (b) giving discourses that fit a particular form, e.g., in "Aiki Shinzui".

(a) The douka were 'waka' and followed a particular literary form. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that Ueshiba followed the conventions of this form, in the way that, e.g., Shakespeare followed in his sonnets. The latter followed a fixed structure and the beauty of Shakespeare is to the see the creative tension between the poetic structure and the grounds of the metaphors Shakespeare uses.

(b) The lectures were also spoken, but I suspect that they followed a particular literary pattern, which is usually expressed in Japanese as KI-SHOU-TEN-KETSU.

The issues of this thread involve the douka, but I suspect that the content of the douka will be illuminated by reference to the discourses, which, of course, might well be used as evidence by those who believe that O Sensei was using some kind of code.

In my opinion, the discussion in thread involves issues sketched above:

1. Given that the translator is translating a text, to what extent should the translator worry about the metaphor categories. For example, when O Sensei mentions 'Yamato-damashii', to what extent should the translator regard this as a metaphor for all that is good and wholesome in the human race?
2. If the text also embodies a 'code', known only to those who can crack the code, should the translation ALSO be a code-breaking device? Thus, to what extent should the translator make it known that that a particular phrase is REALLY a code word for something else entirely?
3. If the text is a poem, following in a particular poetic tradition, to what extent should the translator be aware of the poetic tradition, in order to translate the poem. Thus, if I did not know the literary conventions of the sonnet, would this affect the accuracy of my translations of Shakespeare? Would I need to know the sonnet conventions in order to translate 'bare ruined choirs' correctly?

I think that Mike Sigman's concerns, which are clearly very important, involve Item 2.

I must make a disclaimer here. I have no knowledge of Chinese and I have never trained in any Chinese martial arts. So I could never relate M Ueshiba's supposed Chinese allusions in the douka to my own training experiences. Were I ever to translate the douka, this might make a difference.

Best regards to all,

P A Goldsbury
Hiroshima, Japan
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