Chapter 26 “Power Station” has very few cuts but many examples of how generous Birnbaum is as a translator. In the chapter, Boku and the Librarian wander out to the Power Station near the entrance of the woods in search of a musical instrument.
Here’s a quick cut. This is Birnbaum’s version:
We encounter beasts scavenging for food in the withered grasses. Their pale gold tinged with white, strands of fur grown longer than in autumn, their coats thicker. Yet their hunger is plain; they are lean and pitiful. Their shoulder blades underscore the skin of their backs like the armature of old furniture, their spindly legs knock on swollen joints. The corners of their mouths hang sallow and tired, their eyes lack life. (276)
And the original with my translation:
We also come upon the beasts wandering about the withered grass in search of food. They are covered in light gold hair tinged with white. The hair is much longer than in autumn, and it’s gotten much thicker, but it is clear from looking at them that they are far skinnier than before. The bones on their shoulders stick out clearly like the springs in an old sofa, and the flesh around their mouths sags so that they appear disheveled. The luster in their eyes is gone, and the joints on their limbs are swollen. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the single white horn projecting out from their foreheads. The horn is, as before, straight and pointed proudly into the sky.
It’s kind of a strange cut. I imagine he does so to maintain the kind of somber, winter mood as they head out. It’s also not essential info that needs to be kept. You can tell from my plain translation that Birnbaum is working very hard to render a poetic version. The word “armature” is a great example of this.
Birnbaum does this throughout the chapter. Here’s another example, followed by the Japanese:
We decide to walk around the building. The Power Station is slightly longer than wide, its side wall similarly dotted with clerestory vents, but it has no other door. (278)
“Clerestory vents” is the much more literal 高く小さな窓 (“small, high windows”) in the original. This passage also shows how he is still making small cuts as necessary.
Just a tiny little chapter. Now back to Hard-boiled Wonderland. Fortunately it looks like the next chapter isn’t that long.