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Japanese Translations in the Meiji Era

The first Japanese translation of Jules Verne's work dates back to 1878 (the 11th year of the Meiji era*). KAWASHIMA Chûnosuke** (1853--1938), an interpreter of a trading company, published the 1st volume of 新説:八十日間世界一周 (Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours) at his own expense in this year. His translation has great significance in the history of Japanese literature, since it is one of the most early translation directly from the French text. Moreover, its faithfulness for the original text contrasts with many other "free translations" (abridged and sometimes modified at translators' own discretion) in those days.

(*) The Meiji era is from 1868 to 1912.

(**) Kawashima is the family name and Chûnosuke is the given name.

However, most of Japanese translations in the Meiji era were secondhand translations, which were based on English or occasionally on Russian editions. Among such English-Japanese translators of Jules Verne's work, INOUE Tsutomu (1850--??) and MORITA Shiken (1861--1897) are memorable. Inoue's translation is distinguished by its faithfulness for the sorce text. If his English sorce texts had been of good quality (unfortunately, such early English translations are known by its inaccuracy and abridgement...), his translations would have been more flawless.

Morita, known as the leading translator in the Meiji era, translated a dozen of Verne's novels within ten years from 1887. Among them, 十五少年 (Deux ans de vacances) is widely known not only as Morita's representative translation but also as a longtime seller of the juvenile literature. His translation is distinguished by its elegant style in Japanese, which has been supported by his knowledge on Chinese literature. Most of his works were serialized on the Yûbin Hôchi Shimbun and often then published in book forms.

Jules Verne was one of the most popular foreign author in the Meiji era and many novels were translated into Japanese. Some of them (e.g. Le Pays des fourrures, La Maison à vapeur,...) have been the only Japanese translation up to now. One can find many of them in the Kindai Digital Library and view facsimile texts (please search by the personal name in Japanese or the keyword "verne"). However, such old translations are difficult to read for modern Japanese people, since Japanese written language has changed rapidly in those 100 years.

Here we show a chronological list of Japanese translations of Jules Verne's work, where we mainly depend on valuable bibliographies by 柳田 泉 (YANAGIDA Izumi), 富田 仁 (TOMITA Hitoshi), 川戸 道昭 (KAWATO Michiaki), 榊原 貴教 (SAKAKIBARA Takanori) et. al.

Reproduced volume 1     Reproduced volume 2
last modified on 2006/12/27