UCL Hebrew & Jewish Studies


Stories of the Holocaust in Japanese Translation

23 May 2023

BA Hebrew and Jewish Studies graduate, Kyoko Hirooka, translates Jewish literature into Japanese

Japanese cover of the book Anton, the Dove Fancier and Other Tales of the Holocaust

by Kyoko Hirooka, HJS Alum: BA Hebrew and Jewish Studies (2016)

In April 2023, the Japanese translation of the wonderful book Anton the Dove Fancier and Other Tales of the Holocaust by Barnard Gotfryd was published in Japan.

I translated this book into Japanese as one of two translators. The book is about what Barnard Gotfryd experienced before, during, and after World WarⅡ. He was born in Radom, Poland, survived six concentration camps, and moved to the United States after the war. Bernard is not a professional writer but worked as a photographer for Newsweek magazine in the USA. However, his sincere and simple writing style is enough to shed light on the people and events during those difficult times that he wanted to write about and memorize. I was introduced to this book when I took [HEBR0050 European Jewry and the Holocaust] by Michael Berkowitz. Once I started to read, I immersed myself in this book and could not stop reading till the end. I felt compelled to translate this book myself after learning that it hadn't been done in Japanese yet. After being back in Japan, I translated several chapters and contacted many publishers. Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful. Then, I contacted well-known translator Motoyuki Shibata, who translated many important American-Jewish literary works such as those of Paul Auster, Philip Ross, and Barnard Malamud. I knew that he had already translated two of the chapters that were published in magazines. I asked if he could join me for the translation of the whole book, and he generously agreed with my requests. Now, finally, the book appears in bookstores throughout Japan. I hope it will reach as many Japanese readers as possible.

Besides this book, which was originally written in English, up until now I have translated the Hebrew literary works of Etgar Keret and Uzi Weil. Translating from Hebrew or English into my mother tongue, Japanese, is always challenging for me but a fascinating process at the same time. I have a lot of Hebrew literary works that I want to translate in the future, such as Dolly City by Orly Castel-Bloom, The Memory Monster by Yshai Sarid, The Jerusalem Beach by Iddo Geffen.

As a graduate, I would recommend to current students to take full advantage of the opportunities to learn about Jewish languages, history, and cultures in order to enrich your experiences in the future. Enjoy the excellent work environment at UCL in London as well; it is definitely an ideal place to study. In Japan, we have 24-hour open convenience stores but do not have a 24-hour open library like UCL!