Kuroma Hisashi

Tagged: Author

Working name of Japanese translator Hiroshi Sakuma (1951-1993), who had a profound impact on the sf genre as it appears to modern Japanese readers. A graduate in Law from the prestigious Tokyo University, he became a commercials director for Dentsū before drifting into translation and occasional criticism initially under the pen-name Seiki Shirakawa.

Kuroma's translations clustered around a group of authors whose works were suffused with neologisms or complex concepts, including K W Jeter, Rudy Rucker and the more experimental novels of Roger Zelazny. However, his greatest impact was as the translator of William Gibson, whose Cyberpunk works he rendered with a creative use of the furigana pronunciation guidelines that appear in small print next to hard-to-read words in Japanese.

In the most celebrated example, Kuroma used the characters den-nō kū-kan, literally meaning "cyberspace", but with the guideline indicating that they should be pronounced "sai-baa su-pee-su", thereby retaining Gibson's neologism, while also immediately conveying its meaning to a Japanese readership. Controversial at the time, and ridiculed by one critic as "A-Bomb Translation", Kuroma's unorthodox style attracted praise from other translators such as Norio Itō, who were impressed by its exploitation of the ability of the Japanese language to "say" one thing and "mean" another (see Linguistics). Such multiplied readings soon took hold in original Japanese fiction, Anime and Manga, where they have formed a distinctive element of modern texts. Ironically, this often made them much harder to render back into English, as in the case of Shinseiki Evangelion (1995-1996), the first word of which means "New Century", although its pronunciation guidelines demand it be said "Neon Genesis". [JonC]

see also: Hisashi Asakura.

Hiroshi Sakuma

born Fukagawa, Tokyo, Japan: 1951

died Tokyo, Japan: 14 March 1993

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