The Second Letter to E.L. KONIGSBURG
The first letter
Special thanks

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September 29, 2003

Dear Mrs. Elaine Konigsburg,

  I am most grateful for your reply to my letter.
  I didn't expect such a thoughtful answer. Honestly, at heart I did, but I suppressed my expectation, for I thought I should fulfill my promise (dream) regardless of your answer. So, I was speechless with joy when I read your words.

  Let me report to you about my little campaign for "the better translations" on my website. It is named "The adventure around E.L. Konigsburg's books." I've already made 18 web pages -- about 16 times as long as my first letter to you. I've written various light essays on your books and the Japanese versions of them.
  It might sound funny, but I needed to create this corner.

  In June, when I told my friends that the Japanese versions of your books are strange and poor, no one believed me. Everyone said, "That is highly improbable. Yumi, are you being too nervous?" or "Any book has some mistranslations?"
  I knew what they meant. They (as I have) relied on the printed word, and thought:
1. The publisher is first-class. Iwanami is very famous especially for its Japanese-language dictionaries and juvenile literature.
2. As you are a celebrated author (the Newbery Award is also well-known in Japan), your books must be highly esteemed by the publishers.
3. Children's books are easy to read. There is a limited vocabulary. So, no one can translate them into Japanese very badly, etc.
  So... they concluded, "That is highly improbable."
  However, when I read aloud to them over the phone some phrases and sentences from the books, they started to take the matter seriously.
  And, now they all support my campaign.

  In July, I thought: As even my friends didn't believe me at first, the publisher might disregard my request. My email and letter can be dismissed as unimportant. (And for sure, so far there is no answer from Iwanami.) Even if Mrs. Konigsburg would understand me, the publisher possibly will say to her, "Yumi is a rare, faultfinding reader. A lot of people think highly of the Japanese versions. They sell well." (I think if your books had good translations, they would sell far better, though.) My voice is a weak one. What should I do? How can I convincingly inform people about these facts?

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  Then, I hit on the plan to announce my opinion on the WEB.
  I enumerated a large number of facts as illustration of my thoughts.
  I have compared the latest translations with your originals and explained how the originals are wonderful. (I never reveal the plots.)
  I contrasted Iwanami's translations with Yugakusha's old ones in detail.
  I questioned each writer -- great authorities on children's books, psychiatry, or literature-- who wrote a postscript to the Japanese hardcover versions. (Their views on your books are exquisite. They truly appreciate each of your works. But, then, why they let such an indecent Japanese translation pass? I think they must read books very fast and silently. Besides, your books are too interesting for grown-ups to read slowly. That is why they miss the mistakes, I suppose. So, I asked people to read children's books aloud and slowly, to put themselves into children's shoes.)
  And, I introduced a website, which carries the articles on the clumsiness of the Japanese translation of "The View from Saturday." I've showed that not only I but some people who work for the publishing object to the work of the late Iwanami.

  I also put my first letter to you on the WEB and translated it into Japanese, as I judged that it was the most important part of this adventure.
  One of my best friends, Beth Baruch Joselow living in Silver Spring, MD, corrected my letter. I am not very good at English. (I am not a modest person, either.) Since I am a foreigner and a student of English, I think it is all right. I knew that you would be kind to overlook my mistakes and understand me as all my friends in the English-speaking world do. But, the letter would need to be made public, so I asked Beth to correct my English.
  For the same reason, I had Minoru Harashida, who is also my good friend, observe and proofread all of my trial translations of your originals in my writings.

  Actually, almost all my friends have propped me up.
  Because of their help, my opinion that your works deserve the highest quality of Japanese is being heard.

  Now, a lot of strangers support this adventure. (Some regard me as a saucy girl. For them, I am not qualified to criticize literature.)

They say, for example,
"Yumi, if you collect signatures, I will sign my name!"
"Your attitude is so brave. I am deeply impressed!"
"One sometimes has to fight for protecting his or her very important things. I really see your love of words."
"It is not easy to make a difference, but I hope you do it for the children."
"I didn't know Konigsburg, but I've come to like her. I support you."
"Your essays remind me of Robin Gill's "Goyaku Tengoku," which explores some patterns of mistranslation caused by cultural stereotyping while pursuing the mistranslation of Peter Farb's WORD PLAY. "
"You have a good critical eye. Wonderful job!"
(Things on your books produce all sorts of responses, from pointing out the errors in my writings to the stories of their lonely childhood... I am wondering what is so provocative.)

  I am glad to hear their views and opinions, but at the same time, receiving so many comments confused me. At first, I didn't know how to reply to their concerns. But, I've remembered what I seek when I read the two e-mails below.
- - - Thanks to your interpretation, I really enjoyed "Journey to an 800 Number" in the original. Great! Heart-warming! I sobbed at the last. I had a feeling that you and the author are much alike. I felt something is resonant between two of you. I can hardly express that something, but maybe refinement, good faith, grace and impishness. The author never forgets that she was once a child. And, neither do you.

- - - I read "T-Backs, T-Shirts, Coat and Suit". What an adorable story! So sweet!!! I found something truly precious in this book. And, I've understood why you love Bernadette, or rather the author, and why I loved your webpages for cancer survivors in spite of my being illness-free. There is love and a universal truth in each of yours. I've realized that some people can talk in the same heart-language regardless of what country they are from. Now, this author is very important to me, too. We need sensitive translations of her books!
  It seems that I am not a rebel lone wolf anymore. (Special thanks)
  And, the adventure started by your books has already given me a lot of great things. I thank you and your characters again and again.

  Mrs. Konigsburg, I am looking forward to reading your newest book. The title "The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place" has attracted me so much, especially the word 'outcasts.' And, I do hope the book will be published as the most beautiful book we've ever seen in Japan. I also wish that some of Japanese versions of your books already published can be revised.

Yumi Shibuya

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The first letter

Japanese Entrance

Yummy's Attic

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