Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Woman in the Dunes Chapter 2 Section 1

Chapter 2 (page 8-18) covers the journey from the everyday world from which the man has disappeared to the insect collecting grounds where he hopes to find his sought after specimens and make a name for himself. There are roughly four or possibly five sections in this chapter. The first section deals with his arrival at the end point station and his heading off in the direction of the seaside.


‘On an August afternoon, a man, a big wooden box and a water flask slung crosswise over his shoulders, his trouser bottoms tucked into his socks and wearing a grey piqué hat, looking for all the world as if he were off on a mountain climbing trip, stepped down onto the platform at S- Station.
And yet there was nothing here in the way of mountains worth climbing. The station staff at the ticket gate waved him through with an involuntary expression of surprise.  Without dropping his stride, the man jumped into the bus outside the station and headed for a seat right at the back. It was bus headed in the opposite direction to the mountains.’

ある八月の午後:    As I mentioned before this is a reprise of the opening of Chapter 1. And so seems to be almost like a second Chapter 1 as opposed to a Chapter 2. The impression of déjà lu adds a layer of surreality to the novel. Was the first chapters August this one? Is the man who disappeared the same man in chapter 1?
I looked briefly at the Dale S. Saunders translation of these initial passages and he seems almost perfunctory in his treatment, resulting in a kind of stark realism or quasi-factual prose style but I think that this loses the strange unreal atmosphere and the feeling that we are travelling in the wrong direction in the universe into a place where imperceptible changes take place, when exactly it is hard to tell and the crossing of a border into an untenanted and mysterious world. I will touch more upon this in the section following.
まるで:   Looking for all the world..’ Alternatively could be translated as ‘as though’ or ‘as if’. But I think that ‘まるで gives that impression that the guy is decked out in the whole mountaineer/hiker look in all its slightly train-spotter glory and quite brazen in a way or obviously standing out’

ピケ帽:    I wonder what this hat actually looks like, not only in my imaginations eye, but what comes to the eye of the Japanese reader (or other readers of the Japanese for that matter) I have put it down as a (Fr, Piqué) cap which refers to the material it’s made of or at least the design of the weave. The shape is something I am more interested in is the shape. I can see a cotton hat with a short brim all the way round, the kind you see old geezers wearing when they go fishing or for a ramble in the countryside. Does this matter anyway? Strangely it does to me! Insect hunters just don’t wear any old hat they have to wear those fishing hats to look the part! I often wake up at night wondering about the type of hat the protagonist of Woman in the Dunes is wearing. I have not seen the film for many years so I am really quite in the dark over this apart from my mental image of the grey fishing hat. It’s also a good way of heightening the strange atmosphere by contrast – the hat and some objects the man is carrying are described minutely – the environment he is moving in begins to shift and becomes hard to define, to pin down. For me this heightens the intensity or resolution of the lone figure in an increasingly otherworldly landscape.

S:  This reminds me of the 学校の会談 series of books I used to read…many a year ago when I was learning Japanese and looking for a fun (and creepy!) way to improve my reading skills. In A School, F Town in H Prefecture it’s said that if you walk round the toilets three times..you know the rest..It gives a kind of anonymity but at the same time it could be a real town, it could be YOUR town! You can see this in some literature of the 18th-19th Century in England. I am thinking of the ghost story in particular and specifically those of M.R.James where only the first letter of a town or the name of an estate is given, leaving in place of total anonymity, a tantalizing clue as to the possible identity. Let’s face it, at this point in the novel, the station has more of a name/identity than the protagonist who is still just ‘a man or the’ man at this point – and you can’t say that with many novels.

つい不審の表情で見送った:   It’s the つい part that I am particularly concerned with here. In this context what is it doing? What does it mean here? Can it be left out or changed? I think it implies an involuntary action or reaction, so the station staff could not help but look at him with a quizzical air. So it’s quite important to have this in the text and in translation. The idea being that in Japan and doubtless in other countries station staff as well, it’s not appropriate to react openly to a passengers appearance however odd or out of place. Here the appearance was so unusual that the station staff could help himself and hence つい.

ためらいも見せず:  Literally ‘without showing any hesitation’. I jazzed it up a bit.

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