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Koshi Odajima
Picture (above): In front of a poster of Mr. Bean, of whom he has done some translation

Pursuing to “convey”

Koshi Odajima
Professor , Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences

My father is a researcher, studying English literature such as Shakespeare. On the other hand, I was really into science, and my grades for English classes had been 5 on a scale of one to ten. Thinking “I want to do what my father cannot do,” I explored many scientific experiments such as making a radio with a vacuum tube or communicating through radio. These actions might have been triggered by my unconscious revolt against my father. However, as I grew older, my revolt towards my father has gradually changed to admiration. I used to see that famous writers or outlaw literary youth got together at our house or in a bar and excitedly exchanged their opinions on the literature theories and began to think that “if I become a researcher of literature, I can make such interesting colleagues and friends.” I therefore entered the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University and began to walk the same path as my father.

My main research subject is the works of D.H. Lawrence. In Japan, his name is known for the dispute of whether the translation of his Lady Chatterley's Lover is “an art or obscenity” in the early 1950's. Unlike Shakespeare whose works are full of humor, the works of D.H. Lawrence are serious. That could be my last revolt against my father. Although D.H. Lawrence is famous for his books, I am now focusing my research on approximately ten plays which he wrote in his youth. I believe that his sensibility was actually refined mainly while he was writing the plays. Informing people about this finding is my mission as a person who is engaged in the theater work.

The theme of my seminar is with regards to the various gaps in accepting different cultures and how to fill in these gaps. While undertaking research on D.H. Lawrence, I am also working on the translation of various foreign plays to be performed in Japan. The direct translation of the scripts written in foreign culture cannot convey much to the Japanese audience. I ask the students to think why the meaning cannot be conveyed and how it can be conveyed, while teaching them the pleasure of the thinking process. In the seminar, students discuss various cultural representations including plays and others, but all I can talk from my own experiences is about theater sites. Here is an example. I once translated Hello and Goodbye by A. Fugard, a South African playwright. The characters in the play are a white man (main character) and his sister from a poor family. The main character respected his father and followed Christianity as his father did, and worshipped God. His sister left the house because she did not get along with their father. One day, his father passed away. His mother also passed away thereafter. When he became alone, his sister came home after an interval of 15 years. In the conversations with the main character and his sister, she denied their father and criticized Christianity, and God. In Japan where these religious beliefs are not rooted, it is hard to convey such situation and implication just through lines of dialogue. After reading my translation, the producer, Mr. Tamiya Kuriyama, combined a narrow fragile column and an inclined beam to make them look like the Cross in the house. In the debate scene when the main character was about to be defeated by his sister, he clung to the column (= the Cross). This setting had made it possible for the audience to understand the situation of the two at a glance. By the way, the person who actually built this effective theater set is Mr. Seno Kappa who is famous for his book, Shonen H.

The towel and mug with the subway map of London that he purchased in UK

In recent years, however, the number of “play scripts” is increasing, for which the “ingenuity to convey” is omitted. They are just re-written in Japanese based on the extracted concept. I am not denying their significance as entertainment. But it is sad as a translator, if such methods become mainstream in Japan, because I believe that the true value of the plays cannot be conveyed to the audience without utilizing the conversations in the plays and making efforts to exercise ingenuity to convey the essence of the play.

I will continue my research on D.H. Lawrence as well as carry out practical activities with the theaters. I expect the students also to be aware that they should actively challenge things of their interest and practice, instead of just thinking that “attending the classes is enough.”

Koshi Odajima
Professor , Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Prof. Odashima graduated from School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, majoring in English literature, Waseda University, in 1984 and completed the doctoral courses at the Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 1991. Thereafter, he completed a Master's course in London University, became the Assistant Professor at Chuo University, and then Associate Professor at the same University. In 1996, he became the Assistant Professor of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Waseda University, Associate Professor in 1997, and Professor of Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 2003. His research includes novels/plays of D.H. Lawrence, the reality of translating the plays, and modern British and American theater. He translated many literary and theater works. His father is an Anglicist, Dr. Yushi Odashima, who is renowned for his work of translating all plays of Shakespeare, following Shoyo Tsubouchi.