Kiyoko Zaborszky, 83, is a translator with a reputation for picking winners. She’s worked on books with positive messages that help readers deal with difficult and often controversial issues such as adoption, organ donation, disease and dying. In a career spanning four decades, Zaborszky translated 31 books from English into Japanese, and although none are bestsellers, most are beloved by readers who place them permanently on their night stands and recommend them to others in need. Zaborszky’s translation of Bernie S. Siegel M.D’s “Love, Medicine and Miracles,” which encourages cancer patients to think positively, has achieved such cult status that copies are often kept under readers’ pillows for quick reference. Zaborszky’s dream has been to connect people in the two countries she loves: the United States and Japan. Her own story reads like a good novel, and she’s sure that she still has a few more exciting chapters left in her.
It’s impossible to really understand why you do what you do. I never thought of living anywhere else but Japan, and yet when I was 62, I got married for the second time and moved to the U.S. I wanted to make my American husband happy, so I even became a U.S. citizen. Go figure!
If you are loved and if you love, there is no such thing as culture shock. The first time it was my husband’s love that made adjusting to life in the U.S. so easy. We had 20 happy years together, and after his death last year, I came back to Japan. That time I didn’t feel any stress either because of my daughters’ care. No matter what age, you can start a new life, even in another country.
The best way to capture the voice of an author in a translation is to get to know them in person. I met and befriended every writer whose books I translated. I visited them and stayed at their homes for extended periods of time, so I could get a feel for their way of talking and being.
Let small things make you happy. When the laundry dries quickly, it’s a good day. Plus, make lots of friends.
Positive thinking and hope can get you anything you ever want. When I met John in 1970, we both felt that if we were single, we would be together. But we were both conservative and didn’t want to hurt our spouses so we just stayed friends. We were penpals until his wife passed away and we made plans to meet in Paris in 1988. That was our first date, and we were soon planning our wedding.
It’s comforting to have a place to go after death. Five years before John passed away in 2008, we had our names carved into his family tombstone in Hungary. I kept half of his ashes after the funeral so that once I am cremated my daughters will mix our ashes in my urn and place them inside his family tomb. I’m happy that I will be with him forever.
It’s a grandparent’s privilege to spoil grandkids, but it is also our duty to beat them into shape. My granddaughter was getting older and couldn’t find a suitable man to marry. So I set her up with an American doctor I liked. She was 29 and hated the idea of meeting him. Still I asked him to take her out for a day’s drive somewhere fun. It worked. They have two kids and are happy. I gave them my car I was so thrilled!
No matter what age, people will fall in love and once they do, they feel young again. John was 73 and I was 62 when we decided to get married, but we felt as if we were in our 30s. Up until he died, we felt the same.
Medicine is poison, so take as little as you can. I learned that in pharmacy school and still live by it. But medicine is a great business, so people are given lots of prescriptions.
Make an effort to be happy. It takes a lot of energy to be miserable so turn that around and feel happy.
Make every conversation pleasant, as this could be your last one. When John was 93, he was in great shape and still taught regularly. One day he came home from the university at 6:30 p.m. when I was swimming in our pool. As he was walking around it, I smiled at him and said: “We’re very lucky. We’re both healthy and exercising together. We are so happy!” He answered: “Oh, yes, we are happy, very happy.” At that very moment, though, he fell backward. I jumped out of the pool and asked, “Are you OK?” “Yes,” he replied, but by the time we arrived at the hospital he was unconscious and passed away two days later.
If you keep at it, you can crack any nut. I didn’t graduate from the literature department of a famous university because my father pushed me into pharmacy school instead. Yet I became a translator because I just could not stop reading and writing. What you’re meant to be, you will be.
It’s great to die suddenly. We call it pin pin korori, which means dropping dead at the drop of a hat when one is healthy and well. John got this blessed ending, and I hope to follow in his footsteps.
Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK’s “Weekend Japanology.” Learn more at: http://juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/
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