Hans Christian Andersen Research Situation in Japan
Every Japanese knows Hans Christian Andersen. When we mention Andersen, he is no more than HCA. The only Andersen the average Japanese knows is HCA. The name of Andersen has penetrated so deeply into Japan that we have now restaurants, bakeries and other institutions with his name, such as Restaurant Andersen, Andersen Bakery, Andersen Village, even Andersen Temple and Andersen Academy. I will add a few words to the last example. Most Japanese children attend private schools in the evenings or on Sundays and holidays. The Andersen Academy is one of the private schools of the kind. This academy is exclusively for the children who cannot keep up with their comrades in learning, that is, it welcomes dull or backward pupils.
The fact that we have companies and institutions with his name proves that the image of HCA is 'friendly and affectionate' both to children and adults in Japan. The name of Andersen sounds pleasant to us.
The work of HCA was first introduced in Japan in 1888, 13 years after HCA's death. "The Emperor's New Clothes" was freely translated, perhaps from German. A moral the original did not have was added at the end. "Don't be afraid of speaking out or acting if you are honest." Since then many works by HCA have been translated into Japanese, first from German and then from Danish. Now we have several versions of the Complete Fairy Tales and some of the other works.
Here I will refer to only two important cases. First, a free translation of The Improvisatore by a distinguished writer, Ogai Mori. He translated it from German, finishing in 1901. His Japanese is so beautiful that some people believe that the translation has exceeded the original. I will mention this later again. Second is the translation of the whole Fairy Tales by Suekichi Ohata. It took him more than nine years to translate all the tales and another twenty-four years to revise the translation. The achievement is worthy of special mention, because it was the first whole set of tales translated directly from Danish.
However, our contribution was very modest until around 1980. What we did was mainly translations; translations of the Fairy Tales, The Improvisatore, and two autobiographies, My Own Fairy Tale without Fiction and Book of My Life 1805-1831. Famous biographies written by foreigners such as Hans Christian Andersen by Dr. Elias Bredsdorff were also translated, but we rarely produced original work. Then the situation began to change around 1980, when the HCA Society of Japan was founded, mainly by the efforts of Tetsuro Suzuki. Suzuki wrote H. C. Andersen - His Unreal Image and Real Image already in 1979. It is the best biography written by a Japanese. Then, articles of good quality, though not of the highest quality, began to appear inAndersen Studies, the journal of the HCA Society of Japan, together with the translations of articles by the Danes. Suzuki himself translated the complete romances and books of travels. He finished the great work of ten volumes in 1987. But to our regret he died two years later, that is, in March last year.
Still I can say that we have just advanced another stage in research. A new generation with proficiency in Danish began to write on HCA and his works. "H. C. Andersens eventyr" appeared in vol. 10 of Andersen Studies published in May this year. It was written by two girls, Uta Tanabe and Minako Ito, who attended the University of Copenhagen. The article, written in good Danish, is a minute comparative study of "The Ghost" and "The Travelling Companion". Dr. Erik Dal gave his special compliments to the authors in his letter sent to our office.
The next contribution made this year is "The Translation of The Improvisatore by Ogai and its Original" in vol. 49 of Ogai, the journal of Ogai Society.1I have already mentioned this great man. The article analyses the refined and archaic Japanese of the translator as well as his narrative technique, and it finally warns extremists against the hasty and careless conclusion that the translation is superior to the original. The author is Yoichi Nagashima, Associate Professor of the University of Copenhagen. Though it is written in Japanese it will be instructive to foreigners as well as to the Japanese.
At last please allow me to say a word as to my own book Hans Christian Andersen's Age, published just a month ago. It deals with the historical background. It contains chapters such as "Given Names and Family Names", "Tivoli and Theaters", "Travels and Inns", and so on. This is the first book of this kind in Japan.
I can say that we are now in a new stage of HCA research.
1. See also Olof G. Lidin, "H. C. Andersen's 'Improvisatoren' and Mori Ogai's 'Sokkyo Shijin'", in: Bruno Lewin zu Ehren. Festschrift aus Anlaß seines 65. Geburtstages, vol. I. Bochum, 1989. Pp. 231-37. back