Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another divine farce of post-modernism

Now its poor Dante!

Now the Divine Comedy is being adapted as a manga. Manga are comics and print cartoons, in the Japanese language and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 20th century.In their modern form, manga date from shortly after World War II, but they have a long, complex pre-history in earlier Japanese art.

No problem with that here - I would lovingly redo all my favourite classical literature into mangas, so that the new graphic-minded illiterate generation graduating from our Aussie schools would at least not lose their canon.

But.. the adaptors are doing more than just making pictures out of heaven, hell and in-between.

The author's website says:

What we are doing now is 1. translating the manga, 2. comparing to the original divine comedy/history (when the mangaka leaves the context of the Divine Comedy), 3. mixing it all together and 4. re-writing it in a decasyllabic meter to match with the Divine Comedy’s poetry style. We used mostly H.F. Cary’s translation of the original Divine Comedy as reference, but if the translation was to archaic to be applicable, we used Longfellow’s.

I wonder how old you are, my son, to consider Cary archaic. How about "antique", i.e. elegant, meant to last, lovingly collected by an "archaic" reader like me?? And since when was Dante's poetry decasyllabic?

There is an interesting discussion here of layered comments, weird textual outlay (right to left, bottom to top, etc) that would make you go dizzy unless you read the manga with the original archaic Cary in hand.

1 comment:

NSN said...

Hi, this is Nihil, editor of NSN, the scanlation group doing this project. I think you might have a misconception about us, so allow me to explain: we are not the "authors" of the adapation. Rather, the author and artist is Nagai Go (a relatively famous mangaka). The adaptation has been around since 1994. All we're doing is translating -- in the aforementioned manner, which you quoted -- Go's (Japanese) work and typesetting it onto cleaned raws. (Google "manga scanlation" for more information on what the process of scanlation entails, if you're curious).

Now, regarding our translation style. Personally, our translator and the rest of our teams likes how Cary's work "sounds" -- the style is elegant and probably the best way to experience the Divine Comedy in prose.

However, we are not Classics majors nor literary purists: we are scanlators. Our entire existence predicates upon our work being enjoyed by English-reading fans, and so we must at all times consider our *audience* -- normal manga readers, few of whom have read the Comedy.

We have two dueling desires, working on this project -- first, to pay due respect to Dante and the Comedy; and second, to make this adaptation amenable to our readers. As much as we might want to throw in Cary's unadulterated prose, it simply would throw too many people off. You might say that such a compromise is agere nefas, divinely wrong to do, but such is the reality of translating a manga.

I made a long reply to the Animanachronism post (as nilsinenefas), which explains in further detail our motives for doing what we're doing. In it, I explain what the literal translation looks like, which does a lot towards explaining our motivation.

I am glad to see our work spreading in such circles, though, even in such a manner. There's no such thing as bad publicity, right?


P.S. You seem to have a different connotation of the word "archaic" than I do. Since when was it an insult?