An interview with Andrew Driver
Date: 2009 February 13th Friday [17:19] | Posted By: Eeeper
In April 2009, Alma Books will publish an English translation of Yasutaka Tsutsui's novel Paprika. The basis of Satoshi Kon's award-winning animated film of the same name, the English translation was handled for Alma by Andrew Driver. Otaku News can now present an interview with Mr. Driver which he graciously agreed to do with Eeeper on behalf of Otaku News in which he talks about his work on the novel.
How did you become a book translator? How long have you been doing it? Had you always wanted to be one?
I had always wanted to translate Yasutaka Tsutsui, ever since chancing upon his work in 1980. Eventually, in 2004, I gathered together some of my favourite Tsutsui stories and tried to get them published. The result was "Salmonella Men on Planet Porno". I've translated non-fiction since the mid-nineties.
Having translated more of Tsutsui-sensei's work before with Salmonella Men on Planet Porno, what attracted you to translating Paprika? Would you translate more of his work if given the opportunity?
I wanted to show that Tsutsui's range was quite broad, and felt Paprika to be a shining example of his art. The author was also keen for Paprika to be translated. I will always be happy to translate his work – more projects are in the pipeline.
Can you take us through the steps when translating a project like Paprika?
First, read the book! Get a feeling for the story and characters. Divide the text into sections, set target dates for completing each. Allocate time accordingly. Research where appropriate. Review at regular intervals. Make sure it all hangs together. Consult with the author if necessary. Review again. Et voilà.
From the time of accepting the project, how long did it take you to complete the task?
Standard practice is to give twelve months for translating a novel. So it took twelve months! But I could have finished it in four...
Did you have much contact with the original publishers or with Tsutsui himself? If so did they have any specific instructions or advice?
I learnt, with Salmonella Men, that the original publisher is irrelevant. I'm in regular contact with the author. Yasutaka Tsutsui takes a "hands-off" approach; for Paprika, he gave no specific instructions or advice, answered a few questions, and was happy for me to change some of the names. For example, 'Mr Noda' was originally 'Mr Nose' – which doesn't have quite the same gravitas in English.
Does Tsutsui's use of metafiction present additional problems for you as a translator? If it did, did Paprika itself present additional problems in the fact that some of the story takes place within two separate states: "reality" and "dreamscape"? If so how did you overcome them when drafting the English text?
Tsutsui's metafiction and dream sequences presented no problems at all. Of course, that's partly because he writes them so well.
Of the advanced reading copy that Alma Books have put on their website, there seems to be a lot of psychological references; both to theories and the people who proposed them. Did you have to look up these terms when translating the text so as to get as close to Tsutsui's original intentions?
Yes, that required a lot of background reading. Tsutsui has done his homework; he knows what he's talking about. It's a very disciplined work in general, so it was vital to reflect that discipline.
Have you seen the animated version by Satoshi Kon? If so how does the film differ, in your opinion, from the book? Does the film do the book justice?
I deliberately didn't see the film until I'd finished the first draft. The film is of course a fantastic experience and deserves its acclaim. But it is not the 'film of the book'! Anyone expecting the book to be merely a printed version of the film will be sorely disappointed. Satoshi Kon takes 'snapshots' from the book and embellishes them into a continuous stream of stunning images. Iconic images like the parade and the fairground are not in the book, for example. On the other hand, the book has the benefit of patient story establishment and character motivation. It has some slow-moving, unspectacular scenes, especially at first. I don't think the question of 'doing the book justice' comes into it; they are two completely different artistic expressions, albeit one based on the other.
Finally, what do you think is the book's greatest strength?
The greatest strength of Paprika lies in its creation and destruction of illusions, something quite characteristic of Japanese art in general and Tsutsui in particular. Paprika causes us to question the nature of illusion and reality, and the relationship between them. In the end, no one is really sure what actually happened – or whether anything happened at all.
Otaku News would like to thank the following...
Ms. Elisabetta Minervini, Director of Sales and Marketing at Alma Books Ltd / Oneworld Classics Ltd and Mr. Andrew Driver for taking the time to answer our emails and help us put together this interview. Without their patience none of this would be possible.
Please check out other titles at Alma Books and Andrew's other translation of Yasutaka Tsutsui's short stories Salmonella Men on Planet Porno. Also check out Tustsui's Hell while you about it too!