Often when I go on walks I listen to audio narrations of Japanese fiction. This not only helps train my listening ability but also helps enrich my vocabulary. Another reason is to help find candidate stories or authors for upcoming translation projects.
A few months ago when I was listening to an audio narration on YouTube, a familiar name came up in the list of suggested videos––Edogawa Rampo, a major contributor to Japanese mystery fiction. I had been familiar with this author for some time, but hadn’t actually read (or listened to) many of his works. On the spur of the moment, I decided to listen to one of his works and the style really attracted me, so I listened to a few more and quickly became a fan of Rampo’s. (By the way “Edogawa Rampo”, written as 江戸川乱歩, is a pen name actually created after “Edgar Allan Poe” for whom Rampo adored.)
As I had suspected, many of Rampo’s works have already been translated to English, but with a little research I discovered one that hadn’t been translated yet, and it happened to be my favorite of all the ones I listened to.
Titled “覆面の舞踏者” (fukumen no butousha), the story begins by introducing a secret society that performs outlandish events each month, and the protagonist of the story happens to get a rare invitation to this society. Soon after listening to the story I decided to make it my next translation project. Even though the title literally translates to “The Masked Dancer(s)”, I decided to name it “The Masquerade Ball” since I felt it communicates what the story is about a little clearer and has a little more impact.
There are actually several audio narrations of this story available on YouTube, but this is perhaps my favorite.
I feel the reason this story stood out to me was not only because of the intriguing story and compelling style, but also because it happened to be easier to understand and follow than many of the other stories of Rampo’s that I listened to. Because of this, I thought this story might be suitable for those studying Japanese who want to get into classic Japanese literature, so I decided to publish the translation not only in English, but in parallel translation with alternating paragraphs of English and Japanese. So far, the only books I had published in that format was my Ogawa Mimei series of classic fairytales, which have relatively easy grammar and vocabulary.
Even though the language in this story is more advanced than in those fairytales, I feel that a diligent reader (with the help of a good dictionary) should be able to get through the Japanese text, and the English translation acts as a guide to help you make sure your general understanding is correct. But if any of you have any questions about certain areas I would be glad to explain over email (“selftaughtjapanese [at] gmail.com”), and I may even do one or more articles going over some passages in detail.
As always, it’s hard to get a high level of quality without a little help from others. I would like to thank Kaimai Mizuhiro for helping to clarify the meaning of the original text in a few places, and Jim “Quotes” Miles for help proofreading.
You can find the ebook here on Amazon for only $0.99, and it is also available free for Kindle Unlimited users. I have a few other Rampo stories I would like to translate and publish, but how I prioritize those depends on interest in this first book.
Finally, I would like to give a brief excerpt of the book here to give you an idea of Edogawa’s style. It’s from midway through the story, but I don’t think it gives too much away.
In my entire life I had never experienced such an utterly strange sensation. Inky darkness filled the room. There, upon the shiny, mosaic-adorned floor, our footsteps made tap tap sounds in a peculiar rhythm, like countless woodpeckers striking the bark of a forest of trees. At the same time records of string or piano music played, ill-suited for dance accompaniment, dismal sounds that seemed to resound up from somewhere deep in the earth. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, a multitude of floating eyes gradually emerged under the high ceiling of the room, the darkness making their indistinct forms appear even more numerous. The sight of those heads fluttering chaotically throughout the room, weaving between a few massive pillars that towered like giants, was a terribly bizarre spectacle that could only be described as a banquet of the underworld.(“The Masquerade Ball”, Chapter 3)
Update: As there was a reader question, I wanted to clarify that this book (as well as all my other books) is available on all regions supported by Amazon Kindle, which is a large portion of the world. The links I generally provide are for the US Amazon store, however if anyone needs links for other regions please leave a comment and I can provide them. For example, here is the link for this book on the Amazon Japan, and here is the link of all my works on that same store.