Translate into / Übersetzen nach / Перевести нa / 翻译成   English   に変換 / 로 번역

鵜 飼哲 (Ukai Satoshi), Hitotsubashi University, Tokio

「影を負う」こと, あるいは抵抗の翻訳 „Schatten schultern,“ oder: Was ist eine Übersetzung von Widerstand?

presented by Annmaria Shimabuku

Der Text von Ukai Satoshi ist leider nur als PDF-Dokument verfügbar.

Download: „Schatten schultern,“ oder: Was ist eine Übersetzung von Widerstand?


Exegesis and Commentary on “To Shoulder a Shadow, or What is a Translation of Resistance?” by Ukai Satoshi

1. Background

After the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, the “Cold War” supposedly came to an end. As the wall crumbled to the ground, the rumble resonated clearly throughout East Asia. The very foundation of the postwar nation-state form was now thrown into question. After all, it was the logic of “communist containment” that served to foreground a US-Japanese collaborative hegemony over East Asia in the first place. With the favor of the US, Japan was allowed to escape severe punishment for its war crimes during the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal (1946-1948); Japan was bestowed a “Peace Constitution” (1947) stripping it of a military while the Japanese Emperor gave Okinawa to the US as the condition of its restoration of sovereignty in 1952 to serve as a military base island from which it could “protect” Japan. It was from Okinawa that the Cold Wars in Korea and Vietnam were launched.

However, after 1989 the “communist threat” was less convincing. This was the year that the first so-called “Comfort Woman” came out in protest of sexual slavery instituted by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Fifteen Year War. The ghosts of Japan’s colonial past, invisible but yet surreptitiously reincarnated by a US-Japan transnational network of power in the postwar present, exploded into a politics of shame, war responsibility, and guilt centered on the force of sexuality. This embarrassing issue set off contemporary hot button issues in Japan such as the textbook controversy (ky ô kasho mondai) in which neo-conservatives seek to erase the history of Japan’s aggression in East Asia.

It was in this atmosphere that postcolonial studies began to flourish within the Japanese language context and the Japanese academe witnessed a resurgence of Takeuchi Yoshimi studies. In 1931, Takeuchi enrolled in the Chinese Literature Department at Tokyo Imperial University not because of his fascination with China, but because he thought it was an easier field of study, and wanted money from his parents that he could only get by pretending to go to school. He admits that he learned very little about Chinese Literature at the university, as it was confined to a study of the classics; anything Asian was considered inferior to the study of European Languages and Literatures. Rather, what he witnessed on the intellectual scene was a series of mass political conversions (tenk ô, 転向) that took place as Marxism was suppressed and fascism swept through Japan. Also, he started to travel to China in 1932, where the Other was not merely confined to the temporal and spatial dimension of “ancient China,” but became the real life targets of Japanese brutality in the Fifteen Year War. It was through his study and translations of the literature of Lu Xun, who himself was a translator of minor world literatures into Chinese, that enabled Takeuchi to think about the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed.

Ukai Satoshi’s essay, “To Shoulder a Shadow, or What is a Translation of Resistance” is commentary to the new 2002 edition to Takeuchi Yoshimi’s seminal work Lu Xun first published in 1944. This essay is a close reading of Takeuchi’s translator’s introduction to Lu Xun and is comprised of two parts: First, the various and seemingly contradictory readings of “shadow” in Takeuchi’s work that make up the horizon of his text; Second, the relationship between literature, translation, and Enlightenment through Takeuchi’s refusal to translate the Chinese word 掙扎 (ch ê ng-cha), or “resistance” into Japanese. Instead of providing a definitive reading of a seamless and unified Takeuchi position on the matter as one would hermeneutically extract meaning from a “classical text,” Ukai instead treats Takeuchi’s Lu Xun as a (Foucauldian?) “monument” (kinenhi, 記念碑) in which he shows how Takeuchi worked, struggled, and groped in the darkness (m ô saku) through these problems. [1] Below I provide an exegesis of Ukai’s commentary.

2. “Pursuing the Shadow” or “Shouldering the Shadow”

First Ukai poses the problem of the relationship between literature and politics. Takeuchi footnotes the 1952 edition of his text a confirmation that he was a member of the “Society for Japanese Nationalist Literature” (Nihon Bungaku H ô koku Kai, 日本 文学報国会) although he denies participating in the “Greater East Asian Literati Convention” (Dait ô a Bungakusha Taikai, 大東亜文学者大会). This is significant because it shows that Takeuchi could not escape the fascist takeover of the literature in Japan characteristic of the period of the Fifteen Years War. However, Takeuchi argues this was insignificant compared to the choices Lu Xun faced in his struggle with political persuasion. Contrary to common belief, Takeuchi argues that Lu Xun did not participate in the “Restoration Society” (Guangfuhui, 光復会), which was an anti-Qing Dynasty organization established in 1904 that aimed for revolution. Regarding this decision, Takeuchi writes the following:

Literature is powerless.
That is how Lu Xun saw it.
Powerless means powerless in the face of politics.
To take it the other way, this means that literature is not powerful in the face of politics.
Is this culturalism? Certainly it is.
Lu Xun was a culturalist.
However, culturalism here means culturalism vis-à-vis culturalism.
He rejected “clamoring for literature, literature!” or believing literature “possesses a great power.” This does not mean that literature is unrelated to politics.
This is because the powerful or powerless cannot emerge from a place of non-relation.
What it means to be powerless in the face of literature is that by alienating itself from politics, literature becomes so [powerless] through its confrontation with politics.
Literature is not released from the grips of politics.
Taking a look at the Self’s shadow within politics, and by demolishing that shadow, or in other words, by becoming self-aware of powerlessness, literature becomes literature. Politics and literature are not in a subordinate relationship or a relationship of conflict.
Literature does not ingratiate to politics, nor does it roll its eyes in disregard for politics.
Real literature is to demolish the Self’s shadow within politics.
In other words, the relationship between literature and politics is a relationship of contradictory self-identification (mujunteki jiko d ô itsu, 矛盾的自己同一). [2]

Here, Ukai senses a strong teleological vein in the above Takeuchi text. “[L]iterature becomes literature.” In other words, “Taking a look at the Self’s shadow within politics” should not necessarily entail a demolishing of the shadow. This is because, by replacing “demolishing that shadow” with “becoming self-aware” through a rough translation, the agent of the decision must be first knowledgeable of their own “powerlessness.” In other words, there must be “knowledge” before the “self-awareness.”

Next, Ukai shows another angle to Takeuchi’s reading of the “shadow” through a “literature of atonement.” Takeuchi’s writes:

When reading his [Lu Xun’s] text, I run into a certain shadow.
That shadow is always in the same place.
The shadow itself doesn’t exist but light is born from it and disappears into it.
In this way, there is a tacit understanding hinted at by existence.
One might not notice it if they carelessly gloss over the text, but once it is realized it cannot be forgotten.
Like a weather beaten skull that dances around a pomp-filled stage, the weather beaten skull starts to look like the real thing (jittai, 実体) in the end.
Lu Xun shouldered this kind of shadow throughout his entire life.
It is in this sense that I term him a literature of atonement (shokuzai no bungaku, 贖罪の文学).
The period in which he attained self-awareness about his sin was the six years before the 1918 publication of Diary of a Madman when he resided in Beijng, or the lost years of his biography. [3]

According to Ukai, this “shadow” first appeared as the “eye” in Takeuchi’s heart as a reader and translator. However, this “shadow,” tacit understanding, or abyss was not something that Lu Xun was privy to see. The Lu Xun that appeared in the “eye” of Takeuchi’s heart was not a person who pursued “shadows” (kage wo ou ) but a person who “shouldered the shadow” (kage wo ou ) [4] . In other words, Takeuchi was able to “see” Lu Xun who “shouldered” a “shadow,” a “tacit understanding,” or “something invisible.” Just as the “shadow” created a “self-awareness of powerlessness” in its demolition a moment ago, here the “shadow” is a metaphor for “self-awareness for atonement.” The “shadow” is taken on as an endless debt.

Takeuchi reads Lu Xun’s “literature of atonement” in religious terms. The “shadow” here is not something like a Chinese devil or a Mephistophelean in which guilt is projected onto a source and then feared as an external object. I infer from Ukai’s reading of Takeuchi’s reading of Lu Xun that this would mean that the need for “atonement,” or alternatively “redemption” is a result of an internalization of guilt that is worked out by appealing to a higher universal such as religion.

Ukai provides an alternative reading that resonates more closely to passages from Nietzsche’s “The Wanderer and His Shadow” or Thus Spoke Zaranthustra. Here, the protagonist converses with his alter ego. Nietzsche’s philosophy seeks a liberation from this conversation, which I personally would add would be a liberation from “bad conscience.”

Ukai does not think these two readings necessarily cancel each other out. Rather, he reads a tension between Takeuchi who hesitates as a “translator” (should he translate the shadow as a Chinese devil or Mephistophelean?) and Takeuchi as a “man of letters” that is further split between the heart’s “eye” that cannot decisively “demolish” the shadow and the will of his “hand” that makes a one-sided decision.

3. Translating “Resistance”

In the second part of the essay, Ukai poses the question of how Takeuchi viewed Lu Xun as a translator, or more specifically, how did Takeuchi position translation for Lu Xun between literature and Enlightenment?

For both Takeuchi and Lu Xun, translation was never a mechanical technique carried out from a neutral position free from the operation of sin or crime. For Lu Xun, this was made painfully clear through the philosopher 章柄麟 who condemned the status of the translator as the most base in society, akin to someone who parasites off of power within an ethnic group. For Lu Xun, translation must be divorced from Enlightenment. Enlightenment for him was not an import or translation of the West into China. Rather, Enlightenment could only be attained by divorcing literature from translation conceived as an import from the West.

This problem is furthermore complicated by the aforementioned relationship between politics and literature. The demand for translation comes from the nation-state formation premised on Western enlightenment. Given this situation, Ukai asks how is it possible to conceive of translation in a way in which it doesn’t fall into the trap of Western Enlightenment, or translation that can actually be a practice of resistance against Enlightenment?

Ukai suggests that the answer may already be inscribed in Takeuchi’s reading of Lu Xun’s texts. Takeuchi repeatedly uses the word 掙扎 (ch ê ng-cha) in the original Chinese. In Japanese, this would be rendered something like “to put up with” (gaman suru ), “to endure” (taeru), or “to writhe” (mogaku). Finally, Takeuchi writes, “If [I] were pressed to translate this into Japanese, it would be something close to “resistance” in today’s terminology.” [5] Takeuchi wrestled with the question of how this word could possibly be rendered into Japanese. His problem was informed by the fact that it would be a translation between groups with two different historical experiences, i.e., a translation between an oppressor race and an oppressed race. In the final analysis, translation is impossible. This impossibility was poignantly informed by Takeuchi’s realization of the pain of being translated at the complete mercy of the Other. In examining Lu Xun, Takeuchi “saw” that he was Lu Xun’s shadow. He plots a parallelism where Lu Xun started to translate minor literatures of the world precisely at the point where he feared being translated by the Other and integrated into their universalism. The shadow for Lu Xun here would have been those other minor literatures that are always open to the vulnerability of translation-as-subjugation to a Western universalism.

4. Commentary

Takeuchi came of age and blossomed as a scholar amidst Japan’s Fifteen Year War and rise of fascism. As mentioned in the beginning, this was a time when ardent Marxist scholars and Communist activists were imprisoned and forced to sign “confessions” proving they had “converted” to the proper imperial ideology. For Takeuchi, this mass “conversion” was not just a historic anomaly, but a fundamental flaw in Japanese thought and literature that was inherited in the postwar era. He writes in his most well-known essay, “What is Modernity?,” “The roots of Japanese fascism lie in the very structure of Japanese culture, which includes within it both the left and right.” [6] Just as scholars/activists quickly switched from left to right during the war, Japan quickly switched from an imperialism vis-à-vis East Asia backed by an anti-Western ideology to a new hegemonic domination of East Asia through a complicit partnership with the US. What was it that Japanese culture lacked that enabled this kind of political spinelessness?

The problematic answer to this question that Takeuchi provides would be shutaisei, or “subjectivity.” He writes, “Tenk ô occurs where there is no resistance, i.e., no desire to be oneself.” [7] In other words, this is Japan’s ability to claim an identity vis-à-vis the West in order to resist against it and sublate it. The Hegelian dialectic is strongly evoked here. Instead of blindly importing, consuming, and integrating Western “Enlightenment” into Japan like an “honor society student” (y ûtôsei) [8] , he argued that Japan needed to configure its identity vis-à-vis the West through a painstaking resistance where there are no easy answers but the slave merely writes in pain (mogaku).

According to Takeuchi, Japanese culture and literature was lacking in thought that enabled this type of resistance. Hence, as Ukai points out, this caused Takeuchi to look outside of Japan, to the thought of Lu Xun for a supplement. Ukai writes, Takeuchi “saw in modern Chinese Literature and Lu Xun things that he couldn’t find in modern Japanese Literature and the Japanese literati.” [9]

Takeuchi’s desire and gaze towards Lu Xun and modern Chinese Literature evokes issues of negotiation between the outside/inside, major literature/minor literature, and oppressor/oppressed that is all played out through the practice of translation. Here, I sense a tension between the Hegelian overtones of dialecticism in Takeuchi’s writing characteristic of his time and the Nietzschean influence of genealogical method laced throughout Lu Xun’s literature.

As Ukai notices, Takeuchi seems to assume a teleological progression from “Taking a look at the Self’s shadow within politics” to a “demolishing of the shadow.” Here I interpreted the “shadow” as a negotiation with exteriority. In socialist realism, literature is reduced to a tool for politics in which “resistance” to an external power can be effected through a mobilization of rational subjects against power. The efficacy of politics is contingent on an outside. Power is not only external, i.e., the “Chinese devil” or “Mephistophelean,” but subjects of resistance can be untainted by power. However, this does not adequately take into account the fascist condition whereupon power is completely infused throughout every strata of society. No one has the luxury of being “innocent” from power. Everyone, including the minorities, exploited, and downtrodden are all tainted with power and become radically split in their attempts to negotiate with it. Takeuchi recognizes this problem when he states, “It isn’t just the soldiers and politicians who try to pull the people along with them; the liberation movements do the same through their honor student psychology.” [10] Hence he says, “Japanese literature…is the literature of the fantasy of liberation.” [11] By positing a “hope” or “salvation” as the outside, Japanese literature fails to recognize its defeat to political power. Hence, Takeuchi declares literature cannot compete with political power, but “[l]iterature is powerless.” [12]

Takeuchi’s statement was indeed ahead of his time, and still very politically salient today in thinking about the postcolonial condition of the Japanese Empire. There are no pure pockets of resistance to be found, but total war has completely saturated everything with power. However, this begs the question of what comes after the statement, “Literature is powerless.” By “Taking a look at the Self’s shadow within politics,” a subject realizes that s/he must posit an outside configured as either “hope,” “salvation,” or as I suggest, a “colonial Other” that must be sacrificed in order for political efficacy to be achieved. To “demolish…the shadow” would be to demolish the fantasy of the outside, and with that, the desire to sacrifice the colonial Other. However, the problem here as Ukai perhaps suggests with his critique of Takeuchi’s teleological progression is that Takeuchi sometimes assumes a “self-awareness” of one’s own identity, or shutaisei (subjectivity) must be achieved before the shadow can be demolished. In other words, in a certain sense, the “Japanese” must first become “Japanese” in order to resist the West. The “Chinese” must also first become “Chinese” in order to resist both Japan and the West.

This is how Takeuchi “sees” Lu Xun. According to Takeuchi, Lu Xun does not pursue shadows, but he shoulders the shadow. This means that he does not pursue an outside from where he launches his resistance, but he shoulders the condition of hopelessness and total defeat. Takeuchi writes of Lu Xun, “[s]alvation for the slave consists precisely in nonsalvation, in dreaming without awakening. From the slave’s standpoint, the pursuit of salvation itself is what makes him a slave. If therefore he were to be awakened, he would have to experience the ‘most painful thing in life’ which is the fact that there is ‘no path to follow’--the self awareness that he is a slave.[13]

This language of salvation folds into Ukai’s discussion of a “literature of atonement.” It was precisely at the moment where Lu Xun contemplated the translation of Western Enlightenment into the Chinese context that his discussion of redemption and sin/crime (tumi, 罪) occurs. The blind import of Western Enlightenment would entail flattening out the temporal and spatial heterogeneity of China in order to give birth to a “national” literature that couples as a particular within the universal Western canon. In other words, the inner contradictions, oppositions, and dead weight would be filtered out and annihilated for the sake of translation instead of embraced as a fertile ground for transformation. This is why Takeuchi writes, “I imagine that in the bottom of Lu Xun, he had feelings of atonement for a certain someone.” [14] The act of translation was configured in a way in which literature simultaneously served as a tool of Enlightenment and the construction of the nation-state order. However, Lu Xun attempts to reconfigure translation as a regulatory apparatus for the creation of a nation-state order by parting with Liang Chi’i C h’ao (梁啓超) genre of the “political novel” and turning to a translation of other minor literatures.

Herein Takeuchi reads Lu Xun’s “resistance.” It is not a facile “fantasy of liberation” that is effected by progress, but it is 掙扎 (ch ê ng-cha) which is precisely to “writhe in pain” (mogaku) through the “most painful thing in life.” However, Takeuchi realized that the Japanese word for resistance 抵抗 (teik ô) was not only philosophically bankrupt, but also in the very act of translation, the Japanese language had a practical (jissenteki) relationship with the Chinese language. That is, Takeuchi was in the privileged position of “seeing” Lu Xun “shoulder the shadow” because Japan had contributed to fixing him there. By refusing to translate 掙扎 into Japanese, Takeuchi performs the inner structure of this resistance which is not to fantasize about the outside or sacrifice an Other for the sake of self preservation. Hence, it was only through the refusal of translation that 掙扎 could be understood not in its hermeneutical register, but on the level of practice. As the introducer and translator of Lu Xun’s thought into the Japanese languages, this was perhaps Takeuchi’s last act of resistance.

To supplement Takeuchi’s discussion, I would like to call into question his desire to look to China to fill Japan’s philosophical “lack.” Aside from Manchuria and a few spheres of influence, mainland China did not experience Japanese colonialism, assimilation (d ôka 同化), and imperialization (k ôminka 皇民化). Hence, while Takeuchi was becoming impatient with the series of mass political conversions, he must have become impatient with the colonial subjects of the Japanese Empire such as the Ainu, Okinawans, Taiwanese, and Koreans who lived, wrote, and “resisted” in the Japanese language. In a way, he deemed these realities “hopeless” and looked outwards to China for salvation.

However, in Takeuchi’s serious examination of Lu Xun, he seems to fall victim to a critique of his own logic. In particular, Ukai beautifully highlighted Lu Xun’s attempt to contend with the contradictions of his inner circle through his discussion of Liang Chi’i Ch’ao (梁啓超). Takeuchi writes, “Lu Xun was able to objectify his own self-contradiction through Liang Chi-i Ch-ao…I think the fact that Lu Xun was influenced by Liang Chi’i Chao, and later parted with him should be understood as Lu Xun demolishing his self-shadow through Liang Chi’i Chao and purifying himself.” [15] Instead of reading this through a Hegelian dialectic of recognition, negation, and sublation, I think the term “to writhe” suggests instead a reading of ressentiment as a powerful and transformative force. That is, as oppressed subjects, all are infused with violence, power, and contradiction. Instead of eliminating these elements as “evil,” I think it is important to first affirm them as the positive will to survive. There are no unified subjects who are “good” or “bad,” but there is only a place “beyond good and evil” where each subject is radically split and fraught with various moments of ressentiment. The colonial subject is inherently a schizophrenic one. By treating Takeuchi’s text as a “monument” instead of a “classic,” Ukai performs this affirmative working out of ressentiment instead of a negation of it. Although his text can potentially come across as fragmented, I think he deliberately resists portraying a seamless image of Takeuchi, but instead, writhes, or works through difficult readings with him as a doing instead of saying. Hence, it becomes important to include elements of opposition to any transformative space even when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. The politics of consensus, or groups that get along all-to-well (nakayoshi sh ûdan) run the risk of teeming with a violence of pure innocence.

[1]Ukai Satoshi, “‘Kage wo ou’ koto, aruiwa teikô no honyaku” [“To Shoulder a Shadow: What is Translation of the Resistance”], Ôtôsuru chikara: Kurubeki kotobatachi he [The Power of Accountability: Towards Words that Are to Come] (Tokyo: Seidosha, 2003), 280; 293.
[2]My emphasis. Takeuchi quoted in Ukai, 283.
[3]Takeuchi quoted in Ukai, 286-287.
[4]To pursue and to shoulder a shadow is a pun on the Japanese phrase “kage wo ou ,” which shares the same phonetic sound but different Chinese character.
[5]Ibid, 231.
[6]Takeuchi Yoshimi What is Modernity: Writings of Takeuchi Yoshimi. Ed. Richard Calichman (New York, Columbia University Press: 2004), 68.
[7]Ibid., 75.
[8]Ibid., 67.
[9]Ukai, 284.
[10]Takeuchi, 68.
[11]Takeuchi, 72.
[12]Takeuchi quoted in Ukai, 283.
[13]Takeuchi, 71.
[14]Takeuchi quoted in Ukai, 188.
[15]Ukai, 292.