Wednesday, July 2, 2008

“Palm of the Hand Stories” by Yasunari Kawabata

What a find! Howard Norman tipped me off to these stories last October at Tomales Bay, and I am just now getting around to reading them. The beautiful description of these tiny stories as being “palm of the hand,” is right on, and is in keeping with the charming images contained within:

A woman who arrives at her hotel room and, exhausted, flops onto the bed, ankles dangling off, and shakes her feet until her shoes fall off.

A girl who meets a friend by plunging through his yard hedges, always to be caught by him on the other side.

A young girl who begs the past employers of her ill father for money, while the father waits outside. One boss looks out the window for the father, to berate him, and finds he has collapsed on the sidewalk from a stroke.

Lanterns bobbing in a valley below, the light for children out searching for insects. Then later, one boy offers a grasshopper to a girl. The insect held in his fist, the girl wraps both hands around it, and the grasshopper is transferred in a slow maneuver.

My experiences with translations is small. Paul Bowles’ Moroccan stories. Russian novels. A short list of Japanese and Dutch, and Czech novels. And at my first writing conference, my roommate was enrolled in the poetry translation workshop. From her, I realized that rather than being a conduit, a translator can greatly influence the new version of a piece.

Overheard at Starbucks: Espanol! I was able to understand single words or very short phrases, which isn’t good for much of anything. I studied Spanish so very long ago in high school, but would love to pick it back up. I'm thinking of enrolling in a community college course in the fall.

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