Uzbek translation keeps dream alive

Woman honors her grandfather with Soseki's 'Kokoro'

by Sayaka Watanabe

Kyodo

A young woman from Uzbekistan has published a translation of a famous Japanese novel, inspired by her late grandfather’s wish to deepen the friendship between the two countries.

Aminova Nodira, 26, took about two years to translate “Kokoro” (“Heart”) by Meiji Era novelist Natsume Soseki (1867-1916). Her translation ran in the May issue of a monthly Uzbek magazine that introduces literature from around the world.

“I’m so happy because Japanese literature is not very well known back home,” Nodira said during a recent interview in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, where she works as a company employee.

While going to a university in western Japan in 2005, Nodira visited a bookstore where she noticed the title “Kokoro,” a Japanese word her grandfather taught her as a child.

Her grandfather, an architect, was engaged in construction of the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theater in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, that was completed in 1947.

The theater project involved Japanese prisoners of war who were sent from Siberia after the end of World War II. They were forced to help construct the building in harsh conditions.

But her grandfather said to her that “no matter what circumstances they found themselves in, Japanese people worked hard with a smile on their face.”

Her grandfather also told her that he became particularly close to one prisoner and that the man came to see him almost every day to offer encouragement after he was seriously injured on the job.

The Japanese man died in Uzbekistan without fulfilling his last wish to return home.

Nodira recalls being told by her grandfather that “we were able to communicate because we had an understanding in our hearts.”

She often heard her grandfather saying he never wanted to see the friendship between Uzbekistan and Japan come to an end, and Nodira began studying Japanese in earnest in high school to help maintain his dream.

She worked on the translation of “Kokoro” while studying Japanese literature and education at the University of Tsukuba.

Nodira said that after having repeatedly read the novel, “I feel like I have come to understand Japanese people’s hearts through the main character.”

Nodira, who joined a company in Ibaraki in September, is currently translating another Soseki novel, the critically acclaimed “Wagahai Wa Neko Dearu” (“I am a Cat”).