Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bad News, Hatoyama-kun

It seems that the Christian Science Monitor did not read the memorandum explaining the rule that one never, ever, ever, ever, ever translates an article a Japanese politician has published in a domestic monthly magazine -- because to do so would reveal the glib, facile, repetitive, overgeneralized, vote-begging pablum even the most aristocratic members of the political classes will peddle as close approximations of their way of thinking upon a matter of any importance.

Bad Christian Science Monitor, bad, bad, bad! Did you not notice that even after abridging the Voice article, what remained still had all the heft of eider down?

By contrast, Kambashi Takehiko's article from the same publication artfully arranges quotes from academics to capture/confabulate (choose your favorite - cynics, yours is on the right side) the prevailing zeitgeist.


Durf said...

Considering the "© Voice" text at the end of the piece, it looks like CSM went through proper channels to get this translated—which includes getting permission from the publisher (here PHP Institute) and author (which means Hatoyama isn't getting blindsided by this shocking revelation of his strategy to the foreign masses).

On a related note, we were considering translating this very article for an upcoming issue of our magazine, but it looks like we'll have to find something else now. Doh!

MTC said...

Durf -

I am not so sure that Hatoyama has anyone close to him with the capacity to pull him aside and say:

"You know, the Americans are going to be taking you seriously from now on. The Voice article is water under the bridge. However, you should at least make damn sure the Americans read a 'nuanced' translation of your thoughts."

Durf said...

I'm fairly sure that people operating at Hatoyama's level are aware that the US Embassy staff translates things of interest (which definitely would include a big policy statement by a possible next prime minister). The Americans whose opinions Hatoyama should be most worried about have already seen at least a summary of the Voice piece.

There are still some people out there who think that publishing in Japanese means a veil of secrecy conceals your thoughts from foreigners, to be sure: see Morita Akio's shock when disabused of the idea that his coauthoring of The Japan That Can Say No would somehow go unnoticed by all those overseas Walkman-buyers, for instance. But for the most part, if it's something a key politician doesn't want the global community to see he won't go and say it in a national monthly.

Joel Rathus said...

I read this article the day it came out. Apart from being facile, Hatoyama starts by expounding on the lessons drawn from the French Revolution. I imagine he sees this kind of opening as setting up his intellectual legitimacy. But politicans who refer back to the revolution are running the risk of looking, well, revolutionary. Not a good look unless your name is Che.
Joel (the Eris in Asia guy)