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Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda and Allison Markin Powell with Anna Zielinska-Elliott

Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda and Allison Markin Powell with Anna Zielinska-Elliott

Wednesday, July 19, 2023 - 7:00PM ET
Event address: 
279 Harvard Street
Coolidge Corner
Brookline, MA 02446-2908

Join the Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith for an in-store event with translators Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda and Allison Markin Powell to discuss and celebrate the release of their new translation of Kappa by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. They will be in conversation with translator and scholar Anna Zielinska-Elliott.

Akutagawa’s magical final work is a short novel with a magic spell all its own—poignant, fantastical, wry, melancholic, and witty.

The Kappa is a creature from Japanese folklore known for dragging unwary toddlers to their deaths in rivers: a scaly, child-sized creature, looking something like a frog, but with a sharp, pointed beak and an oval-shaped saucer on top of its head, which hardens with age.

Akutagawa’s Kappa is narrated by Patient No. 23, a madman in a lunatic asylum: he recounts how, while out hiking in Kamikochi, he spots a Kappa. He decides to chase it and, like Alice pursuing the White Rabbit, he tumbles down a hole, out of the human world and into the realm of the Kappas. There he is well looked after, in fact almost made a pet of: as a human, he is a novelty. He makes friends and spends his time learning about their world, exploring the seemingly ridiculous ways of the Kappa, but noting many—not always flattering—parallels to Japanese mores regarding morality, legal justice, economics, and sex. Alas, when the patient eventually returns to the human world, he becomes disgusted by humanity and, like Gulliver missing the Houyhnhnms, he begins to pine for his old friends the Kappas, rather as if he has been forced to take leave of Toad of Toad Hall…

Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda is a Japanese to English literary translator based in New York City. Born in Tokyo, raised in Texas, she received her B.A. from Wesleyan University and her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. She is an active member of the ALTA BIPOC Translators' Caucus, and a two-time graduate of the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT) Summer School. Her work is forthcoming from New Directions, Knopf, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG) in 2023-2024. 

Allison Markin Powell is a literary translator, editor, and publishing consultant. She received the 2020 PEN Translation Prize for her translation of Hiromi Kawakami’s The Ten Loves of Nishino. Her other translations and cotranslations include works by Osamu Dazai, Kaoru Takamura, and Kanako Nishi. She maintains the database Japanese Literature in English, and is a founding member of the collectives Cedilla & Co. and Strong Women, Soft Power.

Moderator Anna Zielinska-Elliott is a translator of modern Japanese literature into Polish. Best known for her translations of Haruki Murakami, she has also translated Mishima Yukio, Yoshimoto Banana, Tanizaki Jun’ichiro, and Mizumura Minae. She is the author of a Polish-language monograph on gender in Murakami, a literary guidebook to Murakami’s Tokyo, and several articles on European translation practices relating to contemporary Japanese fiction and Japanese translations of Polish fiction. Zielinska-Elliott teaches Japanese language, literature, and translation studies at Boston University and is Director of the MFA Program in Literary Translation.