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.
In general, I struggled to keep the poetic rhythm of this essay since Japanese and English have different grammatical structures. Besides, it was hard to find a suitable expression considering the context of Catholicism. I was not sure whether it was allowed in the translation, but I added several phrases which explained the hidden meaning related to religion.
These were the passages that I somewhat struggled with.
I could not find an equivalent expression for “empty of men” because we do not use 空っぽ（in English: empty）to explain about people but materials. Instead, I used “男性がいない“ (in English: there is no man).
When I translated the phrase “to worship a man in a church”, I wondered how many Japanese readers could immediately understand the man means Jesus, so I inserted the word “イエス“(Jesus）to make it clear.
When I first read “being a Jew meant so much more washing-up”, I was confused because I could not think of anything but washing dishes as it literally said. Then I discussed with some classmates and realised that this was based on the complexity of the Jewish rituals, so I translated it into “ユダヤ教を信じることはより多くの厄介ごとを引き受けることを意味します” (being Jewish means having a whole lot of baggage coming with Judaism.)
To translate “the hidden power”, I chose “秘められた(being kept a secret)” instead of “隠された (literally means being hidden) “ because “秘められた“ can express spiritual feature of the women’s power.
I thought “Which makes up, in a way, for being skipped in shop queues and looking like a heap” means that for mothers, being respected as an ideal in religion can make up for being looked down by men in reality, so I tried to convey the meaning.
It was hard to find a suitable expression for “embarrassing” because we have many alternatives in Japanese. I came up with some alternatives such as “恥ずかしい”(feel shame), “きまりが悪い“(awkward, uncomfortable), “困惑する” (confused), but finally chose “困惑する” because it can tell she was just at a loss while the former two options tell she felt embarrassment because she cared about how others think of herself.
When translating the sentence “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 chose “苛まれました” for “suffered” instead of “苦しみました“ to express inner conflict rather than acute pain and agony.
“I found myself shrinking” I translated as “畏縮している” =fear in a respectful way” to express the feeling that she felt powerlessness in front of the child’s future. Also, I changed the order of the words to emphasize the objective part like“私は気づいたのです。彼女の前に広がる莫大で不可知な未来に直面し、自分が畏縮していることに.”
“— so precious —” In Japanese literature, we don’t insert just an adjective like this, so I added some words “それは非常に尊い瞬間でしたが“ = “it was a precious moment”.
“When would she die? Not for many, many years, I hoped; not for the longest time.” At first, I misunderstood that she did not want her baby to live so long, which was caused by the ellipses of subjects and verbs. Finally I understood what was omitted and chose “出来る限り先のこと“(=as long as possible) to express her desire shown in “not for the longest time”.
At first, it was hard to grasp the meaning of “the grinding of her days” because I did not know the word “daily grind” which means monotonous daily life. I tried to express the nuance that the monotonous days create the future of the baby, which is natural in general but made her anxious here.
“I had let something slip into the stream of time.” I struggled to find a suitable expression for “something” because if I literally translate it as “何か”(=something), it would be hard for readers to know that it means the baby she mentioned above. On the other hand, if I directly say “赤子”(=my baby), I thought it would also lose the generality of the argument. Then I chose “新たな生”(=new life) instead.
I translated “tug of it” into “宗教に無心ですがりたくなる誘惑”, because it seemed that Enright tried not to lose a critical view against religion while understanding how powerful and helpful it is for mothers.