Update: Several years later, the English translation for Spark has finally been released. I was not involved in the official translation but you can find it here. Because of this I have a removed the majority of my unofficial translation, and kept only the first paragraph.
In December of last year I had published a review on Naoki Matayoshi’s book “Hibana”, which has been very popular in Japan, winning several awards including the prestigious Akutagawa Prize.
As part of my training to get more into translation, I decided on translating the first few pages of this novel into English. The book does not have any concept of formal chapters, just sections which are divided without a name of number, so I just went until I got until a good stopping point.
For those fluent in Japanese or studying the language, you can see the an excerpt of the book here which includes everything I translated.
Just to be clear this is a completely unofficial fan translation, and when/if the official English version comes out I highly recommend buying it. If you want to get the full Japanese version now you can get it here on Amazon Japan.
This was a very difficult translation project, not only because the source material is so advanced, but because fully understanding this story requires some knowledge of the Japanese comedic style “Manzai“. In particular, the first few pages are in a very strong “literature”-type style, which means there are words and expressions you don’t normally see. I’ve even read some people commenting on how the style of the first paragraph is very unique, even to the point where it uses grammar that is borderline unusual. I don’t hold this against the author at all, since this sort of style is what helped him become such a success. The only minor complaint I have is that this heavy literature style doesn’t really continue that much throughout the book, which reminds me somewhat of one of my favorite novels, Dhalgren.
Even though the translation and editing of this took me quite some time, I think that the more I translate the easier and faster it would get. So if you are interested in seeing more of this translated, please show your interest by liking this post.
Since this novel is so great I really hope eventually they publish an official translation. But that may be years away, assuming that someone decides the novel will sell well in English-speaking countries.
Anyway, I’ll stop talking now and let you read it. Enjoy!
(Warning: this portion contains sections which are not appropriate for children, including cursing and violence)
=== Unofficial translation of “Hibana” by Naoki Matayosh ===
Shrill flutes rang out above the rhythm of Earth-shaking Taiko drums. Summer kimono-clad couples and families bustled along Atami bay, straw sandals trampling the grass, while the last vestiges of intense daylight melted away in the night air. In a small space near the road was a makeshift stage made from yellow beer cases turned upside down, upon which laid several layers of plywood. We performed our comedy routine there, facing the people who passed us by on their way to the fireworks.
[removed the rest of the translation]