Amateur Translations: Kagerou Note – Opening

(After rereading the prologue, this definitely has a LOT of errors)

I felt like putting my parsing skills up to the challenge, so I decided to try a short part of the opening of Kagerou Note by Mareni. Actually this is probably easier than someone with a more polished and minimalistic style (like Romeo), or a style that relies on information and jokes, simply because I am so much better at poking out the intention or ‘faking’ poetic stuff. Poetics is like second-nature to me. Of course, this is only the beginning, and I haven’t got into much conversations yet. For those who are curious to know what this supposedly impenetrable writer sounds like in English, this is a little taster.

The kind of translator I aspire to be, incidentally, is the dilettante type like Arthur Waley, Lin Shu (as outlined in Simon Leys’ essay) or Ezra Pound, who cares more about slaying the writer and eating the corpse for their own literary development.

Epigraph

Kagerou Residence Account: A Dedication to All Lovers of the Printed Word

The loneliness; in that scenic gap where the corpse stuck in

And sunk into the abyss of that expression, of the hard, rough grief

O… where comes this heartful restlessness

These brandished stars have fearful impartations

Within me, these mad-crying kind of impartations

「Sorrow」Hinatsu Kounosuke

Opening

Crackle… crackle. The sound of burning. In the small silver fire grate came a delicate scream, where a crater had been gouged out in the form of a scar, and let out a hot anger.

The frugal lamp, it could be said, let out a light that swam through the soft darkness, and even flew past another flame. This new flame wobbled for a while before settled down, seeming to sit calmly in the candle of a paper lantern. Illuminated outside was the half-face of a woman suckling on a stretched-out silver pipe, causing a shadow to tremble behind her on a paper door.

It was like a tatami-room on the second floor of some restaurant, squeezed down to a squelch, like one of those long and narrow houses caught in the cracks of some streets with numerous long and narrow rooms.

This fraction of a room could be said to be a dubious crawling space for hidden humans, otherwise… the way and sway of shadows dancing in their unisons… trip, tap, trickle of water sounds outside the sliding door collected into their own beat. Water-sounds. Yes… this must be a floating room suspended over a water-face. In sum, the etched space on the top of a small boat must be what this is called.

Separating from the mouthpiece of the long silver pipe, the woman’s red lips pursed into a crack and out slipped a white and slender fume, and she lingered a while in the blaze. She chased the swirls of tobacco smoke for a while with her eyes, in an absentminded ecstasy. Then, she noticed something, it seemed. She loosened her sash and drew off her clothes.

In the darkness, with a layer of the deep-black robe coiling around her shoulders. Emerged forth, gentle fat smeared on the skin… white, in the darkness.

So, the woman lay in that small body of space, where the thin bedding was laid out, where the dripping torso of the young man was, and covered up that taut, ripe, form.


…No, absolutely no…

No…no. It’s unendurable…I’ll flee

There isn’t any pain there. There’s nothing.

If you take this to thereafter, you’ll break me, you’ll crack me… I’ll crumble and crumple all up.

That’s why… I’ll…

The young man thought such severe things. His body was laden with a gentle weight. And, warmth. He lost his distinction between right and wrong, like the budding green of infancy, where there was nothing else, even, except for the warmth of a motherly bosom.

In that bare bosom, with the warmth rubbing off softly, every frozen dulled cell was, drop by drop, tenderly nourished. The icy presentiment caused by the notion of death, and the degree of obstination cradled in this stiff flesh for the rope sewing together the bonds of life… the relief reached at long last was completely undone. A gasp, and, the time when this youth, who slowly and finally puckered out his breath, himself was managing this realization – the fragility of even this act of respiration. The bare closeness of death, the peering down into an abyssal sableity, the much insufficient scope of vision, and the young man, who was only given a mere familiarity of warmth, reeled it in with his whole body of want.

Woman: “…what a cold bodyisn’t it…”

The earlobe tickled by that whisper of her voice held within it certain depth – he felt like a kitten, a brow being licked over with the love of a mama cat. And he was suddenly moved to tears – the cuddling warmth, the voice, was all a thanks. He was drawn to her body – skin to skin, the directness that he knew.

Could it be that not only am I being stripped, but a woman is huddling against me!?

…was what the young man realized, and his body reflexively tried to keep away. He was on the brink of an icy death too, but this matter of a woman’s pressing skin pulsed in his fearful being. He pushed back those shoulders.

Softly, a relieving palm pushed gently back.

Woman: “It’s fine… just stop moving already. If you please, you’re on the verge of becoming a drowned corpse anyway.”

Woman: “When you’re like that, you’ve nothing to be embarrassed about.”

Woman: “Until your body warms up, it’s better like this.”

I wish she’d stop treating me spoiled with these sweet rebukes… ah… but, being with an unfamiliar woman in this atmosphere… isn’t a bother… the indecisive young man was as thus, and the “get up!” that emerged from him in the first place finally came undone as his limbs untied. The expectation that he would meet up with this feeling was vanquished. In the end, within that consciousness of a not-as-of-yet clarified vision, he succumbed to suckling on her kindness. Cautiously, that up-till-then obstinate hesitation fell away slowly.

As whatever was being conveyed through the skin, and as such warmth was distributed upon his him, and as of this woman’s face, so he had in mind the desire to, at the very least, wheedle out a view through his eyes. Yet, the strength of his eyelids were horribly meagre. Through his groaning lips, something was pushed through.

Woman: “…come, you’ll drink this, won’t you? It’ll help restore you…”

Coming up to his strengthless lips slowly, trying to cram it in, was what appeared to be a wooden spoon. His tongue’s instinctive tremor was in reaction to the sliding flush of the fluid, and a feeling of neither warmth nor cold, as the viscosity fell in, and left a clean taste on the palate.

Yet, though clean, it was sweeter than flower honey and smelled stronger than wildberries. It tasted of indescribable bliss, as if ladling through this miraculous fountain, or rather, there was not even that difference.

It flowed through, almost as if melting through when it hit the tongue. He felt a genial fire grow nestled into him, and the young man, still dazed in his trance, sipped his spoon idly and let his throat gulp in gurgling.

A taste conveyed to him the full sweetness of an ambrosiac delirium.

A sip brought the whispering of pleasure-indolent celestials in his ear.

A gulp reconstituted his being, from inner heart to outer body, as he dissolved away like simple frost.

Two times. Three times. He suckled on to the spoon, and yet without reservation or shame. The teat of a mother and the want of a child – that innocent want was similar to what he had now. And again, and each time, the spoon was re-ladled, with it held inside his tongue, and with her too, every wholehearted action of want they brought about was an ecstasy. There was no mistaking it. Within the red lips of this servant, the swaying smile, was the emerging fresco of a Holy Madonna.

After so many sips, the spoon was finally driven from his mouth, and he leaked out a rolling sigh, with a contentment almost cut to full – a childish content, it could be said.

…the woman’s skin and the strange drink restored the young man’s warmth, and sleepiness once again returned to him. Yet this sleepiness was not of the concealing darkness that held the reaper’s blade, nor did it have a kind of dangerous chill held within it. It was a spring’s afternoon you lay into, basking in a sunny spot bloated with satisfaction. Deep relief brought along with sleepiness, slowly and easily plied consciousness from the young man, into dissipation… into darkness…

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