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Slaymaker Translates Hideo's New Book on Words Without Borders

By Gail Hairston

(March 11, 2015) — Excerpts from Doug Slaymaker’s translation of Furukawa Hideo’s latest book “Horses, Horses, in the Innocence of Light” will be published on the online journal Words Without Borders today and Thursday.

The publication is in commemoration of the 3.11 earthquake/tsunami/meltdown disasters four years ago today. The book is the account of how one man, one nation endured an unbearable tragedy. Written in reverse chronology, it begins exactly one month after the magnitude 9 underwater earthquake spawned deadly tsunamis and a nuclear power plant meltdown. It is the distillation of a witness’s narrative of a disaster that killed nearly 16,000, moved the main island of Japan eight feet eastward, and shifted the Earth on its axis as much as 10 inches.

Words Without Borders’ introduction praises Slaymaker’s work: “The translation tries to preserve the herky-jerky, unprocessed feel, the overwhelmed and overwhelming emotional space created by the narrative. The excerpt preserves the convoluted flows of time, the intertwined story lines, the kinship with magical realism.” 

Slaymaker is a professor in the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences Japan Studies program.

Hideo wrote the screenplay for the documentary “True Songs” which will be shown with free admission at 7 p.m. today at the Kentucky Theatre on Main Street, downtown Lexington. The film is a record of song, oral narrative and spoken word performances staged in the years since the March 11, 2011, disaster. The film provides not only a documentary of the performance’s history, but a record of the performance itself and a record of life in post-3.11 Japan.

Slaymaker supplied the subtitles for the film and described it as “a compelling rendition of a powerful stage piece performed by some of contemporary Japan’s most important voices. It is also a remix of one of the most loved of Japanese tales, Miyazawa’s ‘Milky Way Railroad.’”