ABSTRACT

This article examines how translator John Nathan finds an English idiom for the representation of subjectivity in Natsume Sōseki’s novel Meian (明暗; Light and Dark, 1916). It also examines how Nathan employs translation techniques that make his own subjectivity as a translator visible, if not intrusive, to the reader. I argue that Light and Dark reveals how Nathan’s voice as translator informs, if not commands, Sōseki’s voice as author. In his prefatory remarks to Light and Dark, Nathan explains that he wanted to give his translation “the patina of age” by mirroring in English how the novel might have sounded to Japanese readers in 1916. In order to achieve this aesthetic and historical effect, Nathan creates an English style that attempts to reproduce what he calls “Jamesian precisions,” referring to the realism and representation of consciousness in the novels of American writer Henry James (1843-1916). While Nathan claims that there is no basis for asserting that Sōseki consciously emulated James, he attempts to give Sōseki a Jamesian voice in the name of style. To show how he does this I take selections from Nathan’s translation and compare them to V.H. Viglielmo’s 1971 version and the Japanese original. I show that Nathan’s style is often intrusive as it attempts to emulate the kind of diction, prose, and dialogue found in works of Henry James. I also show how Nathan’s style conveys the ideas of James’s older brother, the philosopher and psychologist William James (1842-1910), whose work Sōseki had also read. I conclude by considering “Jamesian precisions” as a narrative style informed by both Henry and William James. Through close examinations of the texts, the article contributes to the understanding of the role of subjectivity in translation in two ways that are intertwined: how the translator represents the narrator occupying the minds of characters in Light and Dark, and how Nathan’s mind takes hold of Sōseki’s in the process of translation.

KEYWORDS: translation, Natsume Sōseki, Henry James, William James, consciousness, Japanese narrative, subjectivity, realism