Translating Hiromi Kawakami’s “Tread on a snake”
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This report includes my translation of the short story “Tread on a Snake” (Hebi o Fumu) by Kawakami Hiromi, which is presented here as a significant contribution to modern Japanese literature in translation. The story received the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 1996, although support for it was not unanimous as seen in my translation of the judges’ comments offered here as well. Following the translation of the story itself is an essay that discusses my personal experiences translating the story. I discuss elements that may be unique to the experience of translating Kawakami’s works, but also many that are applicable more broadly to issues of translation that go beyond her works and even Japanese literature as well. Challenges included maintaining the author’s tone and voice, the appropriate use of notes to provide cultural background, and the deliberate use of non-translated terms in a translation.