It was always a mystery to me why the churches of Ireland were filled with women, and empty of men. I looked up at the crucifix and thought it was a bizarre thing for women to worship a man in a church run by men. As far as I was concerned being a Catholic was silly, and being a Jew meant so much more washing-up. What all religions do, however, is what most political systems fail to do — they prize and praise the figure of the mother.
She is the machine, the hidden power. She is the ideal, the revered one, the truly loved. Which makes up, in a way, for being skipped in shop queues and looking like a heap.
And more. On the third night of my child’s life I looked into her eyes and realised that nothing I believed could explain this. It was an embarrassing moment. I think I saw her soul. I suffered from the conviction that a part of her was ancient; and that part chose to be there with me at the beginning of something new. I had a wise child.
Carrying her out of the hospital and into the noise of the traffic; driving her home in second gear; feeding her in the middle of the night, and at the beginning of the night, and at dawn — so precious — I found myself shrinking in the face of her vast and unknowable future. How would she turn out? What would she do? When would she die? Not for many, many years, I hoped; not for the longest time. The mechanisms of fate, the grinding of her days that would lead to one end or another, became urgently opaque to me. There were a thousand things that could hurt this child, or even estrange her from me. What could I do? Nothing. My best.
These are all feelings that religion understands.
I had, I thought, become human in a different and perhaps more radical way. I had let something slip into the stream of time. What else can you do, but trust the river — put it all into the hands of a higher power?
Oh, all right.
And who else, but the suffering Christ, could know the suffering that motherhood brings?
Actually, I will resist the tug of it, if you don’t mind. Still, I will resist.
Anne Enright, ‘God’ in Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood, London: Vintage, 2005, 111-12.
Children are actually a form of brainwashing. They are a cult, a perfectly legal cult. Think about it. When you join a cult you are undernourished, you are denied sleep, you are forced to do repetitive and pointless tasks at random hours of the day and night, then you stare deep into your despotic leader’s eyes, repeating meaningless phrases, or mantras, like Ooh da gorgeous. Yes, you are! Cult members, like parents, are overwhelmed by spiritual feelings and often burst into tears. Cult members, like parents, spout nonsense with a happy, blank look in their eyes. They know they’re sort of mad, but they can’t help it. They call it love.
From ‘Baby-Talk’ in Anne Enright, Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood, London: Vintage, 2005, 138.
娘を抱いて退院して交通の騒音の中に出た。ギアを２番に入れて娘を家まで連れていく。真夜中に乳を与える、宵の口にも明け方にも――とても貴重なこと――そうしてわたしは彼女の果てしない、先の見えない未来の前で自分が縮んでいくのを感じた。娘はどんなふうになるのだろう？ 何をするのだろう？ いつ死ぬことになるのだろう？ 何年も、何年も先のこと、とわたしは願った。ずっとずっと先のこと。運命の歯車、彼女を何らかの終わりへと導く日々の営みは、ひどく不透明なものとして迫ってきた。この子を傷つけるもの、この子をわたしから引き離すものはいくらもあるのだ。わたしに何ができるだろう？ 何も。最善を尽くすしかない。
‘God’ addresses one of the intricate issues in Irish society, namely women’s relationship with the Church, especially in terms of motherhood. Enright uses her unique personal tone to navigate this issue. As with her other essays, ‘God’ is very poetic and her track of thoughts flows from one aspect of the question to another. Reproducing these different ‘takes’ is one of the keys of my translation.
The translation in the main is an ‘adequate’ one, although here and there I opted for ‘acceptable’ translation, as where I translated ‘the mechanisms of fate’ as ‘wheels of fate’ and ‘a thousand things’ into ‘a lot’, as they sit better as Japanese. Naoko Toraiwa, who kindly reviewed this piece for me, made helpful suggestions in fine-tuning the tone of the translation. With her advice, I made more casual word choices for adjectives like ‘bizzare’ in the first paragraph, and for adverbs like ‘Actually’ and ‘Still’ in the last paragraph, so that the ironic and humorous aspect of the original text would come out. I am very grateful to Naoko for her input.
As a postscript, I would like to add that working with my students highlighted the affective nature of Enright’s writings. Many students in my translation seminar picked Enright’s essay as the most impressive text we dealt with in class. They enjoyed her startling figures of speech and her sense of humour; they were moved by her deep affection for her child. All these things I also experienced when translating ‘God’.
Haruko Takakuwa with the students of Ochanomizu University
We considered translation of ‘Baby-Talk’ in the freshmen seminar, and the students came up with many ingenious translations. Firstly, because the original text has a playful, familiar style, there were variations in Japanese prose style. Some translated in a very intimate conversational style (～よ、～なの), while others employed the polite conversational style that is often used in a speech or a lecture (～です、～ます). I myself translated in a writerly form so as to unify the tone with other essays (～だ、～である), but I was struck with the lyricism the Japanese conversational form brought out. In my translation, I kept each sentence relatively short to retain some of the rhythm the original text has.
Another point of serious discussion was the title of the text. ‘Baby-Talk’ primarily refers to the language that is used in speaking to babies, and its somewhat nonsensical nature. However, the title also suggests the tongue-in-cheek tone of the whole essay. Thus, instead of translating the title directly as 「赤ちゃん言葉」 (the language used with babies), I chose 「たわごと」, which refers to its secondary sense of talking nonsense. One student came up with the title 「赤ちゃん言葉を喋る」 (talking baby-talk), which might be a very good compromise of the two meanings.