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New Chinese translation of 'The Tale of Genji' set to be published in 2024

02/11/2024 02:46 PM
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Lin Shui-fu. CNA file photo
Lin Shui-fu. CNA file photo

Taipei, Feb. 11 (CNA) A new Chinese translation of the Japanese literary classic "The Tale of Genji" by Taiwanese translator Lin Shui-fu (林水福) is set to be published in the second half of 2024.

In a recent interview with CNA, Lin expressed his motivation to offer a fresh interpretation of "The Tale of Genji," driven by his belief that "classics never grow old."

Lin, who dedicated over four years to produce the 900,000-character work, joins a lineage of translators who have rendered "The Tale of Genji" into Chinese, including Lin Wen-yueh (林文月) in the 1970s and Feng Zikai (豐子愷) in 1980.

"The Tale of Genji," composed by Murasaki Shikibu in early 11th century archaic Japanese, is considered by some as the world's first novel. 

However, even in modern Japanese, new translations emerge roughly once every two decades, Lin said.

"'The Tale of Genji,' in particular, stands as the highest pinnacle of Japanese literature. Writer Yasunari Kawabata, speaking during his 1968 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, argued that 'even today, no piece of fiction has matched its significance'," Lin said.

Lin emphasized that there is no better cultural icon for Japan than "The Tale of Genji," which profoundly influences the aesthetics of the country's culture, literature, and other fields.

"The Tale of Genji" revolves around the romantic pursuits of Hikaru Genji, the son of Japanese Emperor Kiritsubo and his consort, and three generations of his descendants during the Heian period (794-1185 A.D.), Lin said.

The masterpiece is anticipated to be instilled into a new life by Lin, a heavyweight in Japanese-to-Chinese translation in Taiwan who earned his doctorate at Japan's Tohoku University.

Renowned for translating major works by Kawabata, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Kenzaburō Ōe, etc., Lin expressed that "The Tale of Genji" is the work he desires to translate most, given his enduring scholarly interest in Heian literature, particularly Shikibu's work.

Lin began his work after retiring from Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology in 2018, translating about 2,000 words each day.

While the workload is more substantial than before his retirement, the 71-year-old translator enjoys the process a lot.

Having mastered more than 1,000 waka, a form of classical Japanese poetry, before studying in Japan, Lin anticipates that his knowledge of the form will contribute to the distinction between his translation and the preceding translations of "The Tale of Genji," which include over 700 waka.

(By Chiu Tsu-yin and Chao Yen-hsiang)

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