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Translation of Early Medieval Japanese Literature

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Directors : Claire-Akiko Brisset (UPD) and Daniel Struve (UPD)

Associate Members : Jacqueline Pigeot (emeritus), Sumie Terada (INALCO), Michel Vieillard-Baron (INALCO)

After completing the translation of a collection of critical texts from the Edo period [1]and that of Kamo no Chômei’s Notes without a title [2], the team has undertaken the translation of Kaidôki (An account of the journey to the (eastern) sea), an anonymous travel record written in the mid-13th century. This work, written by a lettered man of the Kamakura period is remarkable for the place it accords to Chinese poetry or Japanese poetry written in Chinese, particularly to Fujiwara no Kinto’s (1018) bi-lingual anthology, Wakan rôei shû (Collection of Japanese and Chinese Poems for Singing) that enjoyed immense popularity in the late Heian and Kamakura periods. This dual influence of Chinese and Japanese poetry confers a distinctive character on the work’s prose but also raises a number of translation issues. A true patchwork of Chinese poetic quotations embedded in Japanese poetic prose, the Kaidôki is a testimony to the development of wakan konko buntai (combination of Chinese Japanese styles) and, as such, represents an important landmark in Japan’s cultural history. This innovative work, strongly permeated by a Buddhist vision of the world is considered a masterpiece of the travel diary genre of the Kamakura period. It bears witness to the introduction of Chinese poetry (in all its forms) in Japan, and is an important key to understanding medieval Japanese poetry. The work is also known for having sparked the interest of the Edo poet Matsuo Basho.

Upcoming activities :
• 2014 : completion of the translation (with annotations)
• 2015 : publication


[1Claire-Akiko Brisset, Jacqueline Pigeot, Daniel Struve, Sumie Terada & Michel Vieillard-Baron co-translation and annotation of Kumazawa Banzan, Andô Tameaki, Kamo no Mabuchi et Ozawa Roan, Regards critiques. Quatre réflexions sur la littérature classique dans le Japon des XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles, (A critical study : Four reflections on Classical Literature in Japan in the 17-18th centuries), Paris, Collège de France, coll. Travaux et conférences de l’Institut des Hautes Etudes Japonaises, 2009.

[2Claire-Akiko Brisset, Jacqueline Pigeot, Daniel Struve, Sumie Terada & Michel Vieillard-Baron co-translation and annotation of Kamo no chômei’s Mumyôshô (Notes without a title), Kamo no Chômei, Notes sans titre (Mumyôshô) – Propos sur les poètes et sur la poésie, Paris, Le Bruit du temps, 2010.