Japanese classic literature book release: “Kaimu: A Collection of Disturbing Dreams” by Kyusaku Yumeno.

By | October 25, 2021

(You can jump right to the book’s Amazon page here)

In late 2019 I translated “The Spirit Drum”, a novella about a cursed drum by classic author Kyusaku Yumeno (夢野久作) who is known for his unusual stories that often involve supernatural, surreal, or mysterious elements. I have gotten generally favorable feedback on this project, and for the last few years have been gradually doing a survey of other of Yumeno’s stories to find one or more that would be suited for publishing.

While I try to keep detailed notes of the candidate stories I read (or listen to), often the stories I end up choosing are those that have left a strong impression on me. The stories from “Kaimu: A Collection of Disturbing Dreams” are a perfect example of that, having sat patiently in a corner of my mind for over two years until I finally decided to translate and publish them. 

Each story in this collection focuses on an unusual dream (presumably based on a real dream of the author’s), with an emphasis on vivid imagery and creating a memorable atmosphere. For example, “The Foundry” is about an eerie foundry where the molten steel and cold machinery seems to be alive, even sentient, and the shrieks of fallen workers can be heard echoing through the walls.

While overall the prose is simpler than some of the other works I have translated, I felt the frequency of difficult areas that required extra research to understand was higher than average. Several of the searches I did online looking for clarification about a passage came up with other posts asking about the same passages, and in some cases there was no adequate resolution.

This gave me the idea to write up some translation notes, focusing on explaining the literal meaning of tricky or critical passages as an aid for those studying translation, or just readers curious for a deeper understanding of the stories. I also discussed the reasons behind some of the translation decisions I made.

I ended up with over 60 notes, which is around seven pages worth on a medium size tablet; this happens to be the highest density of notes-per-content of any of my projects. By the way, this is the other project of mine with significant translation notes, though they are more focused on cultural context.

In addition to the translation notes, I have listed the stories in both English-only and parallel Japanese/English formats. Despite the tricky parts of the original text, overall I think the short length of these stories makes them good candidates for reading practice. I’ve also left in the furigana reading hints from the original text to assist Japanese learners (this is the first book I’ve done this for). If you are learning Japanese I would suggest starting with this second volume and then moving on to the first if you like Yumeno’s style.

I want to give many thanks to all those who helped with this project, in particular Jim Miles (of Annotranslate), and Kaimai Mizuhiro (his web site is here, and books are here).

You can find the e-book available on Amazon below, or use this link ot redirect you to your nearest store.

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