When thinking about the word Literature we often only think of books. What we forget is that Literature is the art of written work. Written work can be anywhere, not just in books and although contradictory to its definition, it does not even have to be written. Written work can be expressed not only on a piece of paper, but also through sound. Whether it is the script to a movie, video game, lyrics to a song, the written words still exist and should be considered literature. The reason I bring this up is because recently I was watching a remake of an anime (animated show) that I loved when I was in high-school. The original anime was called Hellsing. The show has been re-made it into a version called Hellsing: Ultimate. One of the episodes of the newer version had a song playing in the background that I fell in love with. It was in Japanese and I had no idea what was being said or what was going on, but I fell in love with the sound and I could tell by the way it was being sung that it related to an intense emotion. I searched YouTube and was able to find the episode with English subtitles that included the subtitles to the song. Unfortunately it was only for about the first half of the song. If you’re interested it can be viewed here Hellsing: Ultimate Song The song starts at 30:00, and you will have to be signed in into your YouTube account in order to see it because the show is rated M. The lyrics that are presented on this video are:
“I want to cut into you and see for myself
I want to see
There, on the polished paulownia shelf
Is that where I live now?
Is my other half alive?
Are you afraid to be held down?
It’s okay I’ll take it slow
I only want to cut you open
And run my tongue along your heart
Outside is the alluring; see-through skin
The inside tinged with dark purple fervor”
This song is by a Japanese band called Suilen and the name of the song is Zakuro (Pomegranate in English). I wanted to see what the rest of the song said and stumbled upon this translation online: http://pipxseras.livejournal.com/67564.html
This translations are not vastly different, but different enough to bother me. It made me think about how much is lost in translation and what a critical job translating literature is.
I want to cut you in order to ascertain
I want to see
On top of the polished paulownia shelf*
Standing side by side
Do I really inhabit there now?
Does my other half live?
Do I scare you if I hold you down?
I’ll do it little by little so,
I’ll carve your chest open and
only wish to crawl my tongue over it.
The Outside is like a spellbinding transparent membrane.
The Inside is tinged with the black purple color of passion.
I am a pomegranate that’s about to burst.
Let me spill!
Peel me off!
Gathering the Fiber…
I’ll unravel for you.
I’ll (go) bury for you.
I’ll boil for you.
What kind of voice cries in your blood?
I’ll turn you liquid. To smear you and to taste you.
I’ll mix (us). To stitch and to caress.
(Let’s) Entwine together.
Turn you into powder. I paint and lick you.
Turn you into mist. I paint and lick you…
I want to suck you in.**”
My point is not to talk about merely how much gets lost in translation, how big of a part sound has in poetry and literature and how little acknowledge, or how literature can be found anywhere. I wanted to focus on how much of a difference one word can make to a sentence, or even to a whole poem. A piece of written work can be made or ruined by one, or a couple of words. Personally I do not speak Japanese so I do not know which translation holds truer to the original. I do prefer the translation that is given by the show, and wish it had translated the rest of the song. This also makes me think more about myself as an editor and how scrupulous one should really be when judging a piece of literature. I was not aware that the word “Paulownia” was referring to a type of tree that girls in china plant when they are little, and turn into a piece of furniture later on in life when they get married. When I found this out from the link to the secondary translation this one word gave this whole song a much deeper meaning and allowed me to understand it a lot more as a whole. I think that when judging other people’s work we should take the time to read and understand the piece word for word very carefully because it is so easy to misinterpret things by not reading them carefully, or miss an amazing thought that is being conveyed. Specially when dealing with something like poetry where every word should be so carefully selected. I just wanted to post this as an example and remind everyone to not just read a piece of work one time and decide if it is good or not. I usually read things one time without stopping just to get the general feel of it, and then I go over it over and over and over to make sure I did not miss anything. I encourage everyone else to do the same and to acknowledge every word and see how it fits, or doesn’t fit into whatever you are reading.