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1020 Haiku in Translation: The Heart of…

1020 Haiku in Translation: The Heart of Basho, Buson and Issa

by William R. Nelson

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As the title suggests, the authors of this book chose 1,020 haiku written by the Japanese masters Basho, Buson and Issa and translated them accurately so as to give the reader the poets’ words exactly how they wrote them. Most translations of haiku use approximate words simply in order to preserve the syllable count. So the translations in this book give us a better feel for what the Japanese call mono no aware – literally, the pathos of the thing.

This book does not place the three poets into a literary context with any detail, but that was probably not its intention; there are many other fine books that focus on this aspect. Rather, the focus of this book is to correct the inaccuracies caused by previous interpretive translations and thus give us the true form and flow of the haiku as written by Basho, Buson and Issa. Also, the translators have included notes that focus on, for example, implied meanings, the location of places, cultural background and the explanation of situations that might not be so readily understood.

What I especially liked about this book, as a student of the Japanese language and culture, is that the original poem is included as written in Japanese (kanji and hiragana). Then it is rendered phonetically so that we can hear what it might sound like in the original. In an appendix the authors provide a tutorial on the pronunciation of Japanese sounds.

Adding to the quality of this book is the inclusion of beautiful artwork and calligraphy. ( )
  JolleyG | Feb 7, 2011 |
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