Asian studies in Lithuania

The published books reflected the communist paradise created in these countries, the fight against the bourgeoisie and the old obsolete traditions. Even Japan, the country representing the opposite ideological bloc, was represented through a pro-communist author Teru Takakura.

Since the 70’s the nature of translated literature significantly changed. Instead of pro-Communist novels, the focus has been put on Chinese and Japanese classical works. This trend in Japanese literature appeared in 60’s first with R. Akutagawa and Sh. Endo translations. The translations of Japanese authors, whose thoughts were often not in line with Soviet ideology, had become a form of resistance or escape from the Soviet reality. Perhaps this is why this country was represented by a much more diverse range of authors: the classical works of modern literature, demonstrating the traditional Japanese way of life (Y. Kawabata), as well as society criticism, fiction and detective genre works were translated. One of the most translated authors in the Soviet era was K. Abe. Korean literature in this period was represented by Kim Manjung Devynių sapnas debesyse  (1977) a classical work from 17th century. Classic works of poetry by Confucius and Sunlin Pu represented Chinese literature. Quite a large part of the translations made during this period were works for children: Chinese, Japanese, and Korean tales as well as novels depicting the beauty of distant peoples in Asia, revealing the prosperity of their culture.

With the emergence of the first professionals who spoke East Asian languages the first direct translations appeared. The Japanese language was undoubtedly ahead of them. Arvydas Ališauskas, a graduate from Japanese language at Moscow National University made first direct translations from Japanese in the 70’s. The first direct translations into the Lithuanian language of R. Akutagawa, P. Ogawa, R. Nakagawa, M. Matsutani, S. Hatanaka and other authors’ were subsequently made by him. However, the first direct translations from Chinese and Korean languages occurred significantly later and appeared only after the independence of Lithuania.

Fluent in Lithuanian J. Seo presented the first direct translations from Korean: Gražiausias Korėjos pasakas (Korea‘s most beautiful fairy tales (2005), Korėjos mitus (Korean myths (2007) and prose collection of contemporary Korean writer Kim Jonghua (2011). These works were the only Korean translations after the independence of Lithuania. When compared to the Soviet times, literary translations from Korean sources drastically decreased.

Although the amount of Chinese literature translations has not decreased, their nature has changed. Over the past few decades more modern Chinese authors (often exile) have been translated, revealing the rich history and culture of the Chinese aristocracy (eg Anchee Min, Lisa See, Chiew-Siah Tei et al.), as well as critical commentary on socialist China (Ha Jin, Dai Siji, Xingjian Gao et al.). During the Lithuanian independence period Japanese literature was represented by extremely popular H. Murakami, K. Abe, J. Tanizaki, Y. Mishima, K. Oe novels. The translations of Japanese classical works dealing with philosophy of life, martial arts and military ethics increased. A few classic poetry collections have even been published. Unlike during the Soviet period, the translations of children’s literature greatly decreased, although some previously translated books are being republished. In fact, Japanese and Korean comics (manga, manhua) are becoming increasingly popular, displaying these distant cultures for young people in their own original way.

Since 1990 most of the Japanese and Chinese literature works were translated from English (in some cases – from Russian or French) language, however, the quality of these translations, particularly in terms of classical literature, could reasonably be doubted. With the new generation of orientalists the number of attempts to translate from the original languages is significantly increasing. Highly gifted Linguist D. Švambarytė in periodical published Zeami Užrašai apie išraiškos formą (1996), R. Akutagawa’s Citata iš išdegusio lauko (1995), fragments of Murasaki’s Shikibu’s Sakmė apie princą Gendži (The Tale of Genji (2006), in 2001 published Asmeninė patirtis by the Nobel laureate K. Oe. She has also translated some works from classical Chinese language: Laozi (1997, 2004), Bai Juyi Amžinos širdgėlos giesmė (2006). V. Dumčius is the first person in Lithuanian history to translate classical Japanese poetry from the original language. In 1999 he translated Japonų pasakos (Japanese fairy tales). In the same year appeared haiku collection Drugelis sniege, and in 2007 –Paparčio šventi ženklai. The translations demonstrate the ability to gracefully and accurately convey the true depth of thought of the original work. G. Žukauskienė translated fragments from Kojiki (Japanese). The younger generation of the Centre of Oriental studies of Vilnius University graduates: V. Devėnaitė, I. Susnytė (in Japanese), A. Biliūnaitė (contemporary Chinese), and others have also contributed in translating from original languages.


Initiators of the project: Japan foundation VDU