Literary Detectives (SO-27) OR The Strange Affair of the Flesh of the Bosom

If you have not read David Lodge’s Small World you should. It is a fine comic academic novel. At one point our hero is in a bar with a bunch of drunken Japanese translators, who are regaling him with Japanese titles of Shakespeare translations, and he then has to guess which Shakespeare play is intended. I had always half wondered where Lodge got all these Japanese titles from, and now, thanks to Google, I know that they  come from Shakespeare in Japan: An Historical Survey by Toyoda Minoru

It is a nice read if you are interested in how foreign ideas seep into a culture. Literature was obviously important to the Japanese, and Shakespeare was important to the English, so it is not surprising that they  met up. It is interesting, however, how the two cultures manage to speak at cross purposes. Poetry has traditionally had a much higher status than drama in Japan, so it is not surprising that Shakespeare’s poetic output  had a much higher profile that you might expect. The plays were at first translated with fairly…creative…titles that reflect what Japanese readers might find interesting in them. Think you can match them up? Some may be used more than once.

The Remains of the Sharpness of the Sword of Freedom

The Strange Affair of the Flesh of the Bosom

The Mirror of the Hero’s Life

Flowers in the Mirror and the Moon in the Water

A Lawsuit about a Pledge of Human Flesh

The Ghost

All for Money

A Tangled Love Story with a Happy Ending



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