Institute for Advanced Study Seminar on Translation

April 10, 2014

3:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m. followed by a reception

Maple Room, IMU


Being Yoko Ogawa: Translation and Authority


A Lecture by Stephen Snyder

Literary translators tend to characterize their activity as a complex, often quite private, linguistic negotiation between largely incommensurable cultural and aesthetic spheres.  In this talk, I look at the extra-literary factors that affect this negotiation, in an attempt to identify the various voices in the lively discourse that ultimately shapes any translation project.  Drawing from my ethnographic work in the Japanese and U.S. publishing industries and my experience translating and speaking about—and in place of—Yoko Ogawa, author of The Housekeeper and the Professor, Hotel Iris and many other award-winning novels, I examine the roles of editors, literary agents, marketing directors, jacket designers, and others in recreating a work and, ultimately, in shaping the canon of a literature in translation.


Stephen Snyder is Kawashima Professor of Japanese Studies and in-coming Dean of Middlebury Language Schools at Middlebury College in Vermont.  He is the author of Fictions of Desire: Narrative Form in the Novels of Nagai Kafu (2000) and co-editor of Oe and Beyond: Fiction in Contemporary Japan (1999). He has translated works by Yoko Ogawa, Kenzaburo Oe, Ryu Murakami, and Miri Yu, among others.  His translation of Kunio Tsuji’s The Signore (Azuchi Okanki, 1990) won the 1990 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission translation prize. His translation of Natsuo Kirino’s OUT (2003), enthusiastically reviewed in The New York Times, was a finalist for the Edgar Award for best mystery novel in 2004.  His translation of Yoko Ogawa’s Hotel Iris (2010) was short-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2011.  He is currently working on a study of publishing practices in Japan and the United States and their effects on the globalization of Japanese literature.


If you have questions, please contact Breon Mitchell, Russell Valentino, or Sumie Jones