The Millions

Readers Don’t Need to Be Babied: A Conversation on Translating Japanese Literature

This year Japanese popular literature superstar Tomihiko Morimi was translated into English for the first time—and the second time! Yen Press released Penguin Highway on April 23 and The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl on August 13. Translations were handled by Andrew Cunningham and Emily Balistrieri respectively.

Penguin Highway is the story of a boy, Aoyama, who takes “the most notes of any fourth grader in Japan. Maybe in the world.” He researches his first crush and his environment, and when penguins start appearing around the suburb where he lives, he and his friends investigate.

The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is set in Kyoto, as many Morimi works are, where a college student struggles to find romance on a road paved with fantasy and angst. After spending nearly a year trying to get the girl of his dreams to notice him, can he finally get a date?

Translators Balistrieri and Cunningham got together to discuss their experiences translating Morimi and their impressions of his work.

One thing, I think, is interesting is that, so these are the first two novels of his to be translated, but in terms of style, they’re about as far apart as you can get. in Japanese has always been my go-to recommendation for Japanese learners, since the fourth-grade protagonist makes it easier to read, while the first time I read in Japanese a few years

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