A “comic book rebel” and a “very normal person”

Yesterday in The New York Times Dwight Garner reviewed Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s epic autobiographical graphic novel, A Drifting Life. “Its pleasures are cumulative,” Garner writes, “the book has a rolling, rumbling grandeur. It’s as if someone had taken a Haruki Murakami novel and drawn, beautifully and comprehensively, in its margins.” (You can read an excerpt from A Drifting Life at Words Without Borders, as well as an interview with the book’s American editor -- who also designed and lettered the book -- Adrian Tomine.)

I’ve been reading a lot of Tatsumi lately: his story “Hell,” which was first published in the Japanese edition of Playboy in 1971, appears in PEN America 10: Fear Itself (read the first half of “Hell” here), and, on Thursday, April 30, I’ll be moderating a conversation between Tatsumi and the Austrian writer Kathrin Roggla on the subject of “modern day salarymen” (and, more broadly, ideas about work and the working life). Many of Tatsumi’s first mature stories (c. 1969-1972) are about people who do thankless jobs in Japan; the title piece in The Push Man and Other Stories is about a man who does this for a living.

In his review, Garner scrupulously notes the work of the translator, Taro Nettleton. Translating Japanese comics into English is a tricky business, and not just for the translator: since Japanese books are read from right to left, the order of the panels must be reversed. A publisher can simply print a mirror image of the original, but, as Tomine points out in his introduction to The Push Man, this approach is often not kind to the artwork, which has been composed with a different arrangement in mind. For The Push Man, at least, Tatsumi “painstakingly re-arranged the panels on each page so that they would be read in the proper order.”

One last note: in a brief interview between Tomine and Tatsumi (who will also be speaking together at the festival) appended to The Push Man, Tomine asks, “Is there anything you'd like English-speaking readers to know about you or your work?” Tatsumi’s reply is endearing, particularly if you’ve read some of his darker stories from the early ’70s:
Since my work has been largely unavailable in English-speaking countries, I doubt most readers have heard of me. I myself am a very normal person. Please do not interpret these stories as representative of the author’s personality.


Crazy Wild Things said...

I've been a fan of Yoshihiro Tatusmi for quite some time. I love his work.

Butch Decossas
Big Sky, Montana

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