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Translating Nature: Japanese and Korean Images in the writings of the Russian émigré writers

Posted By admin On May 21, 2013 @ 12:47 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Literature and the Arts | Comments Disabled

Assistant professor (docent) Aida Suleymenova

Asian Pcific Languages, Far Eastern Federal University

Vladivostok, Russia

In early 1920-s the Russian émigré writers and poets moved from Vladivostok, the terminal station of the Trans-Siberian railway, to China, Korea and Japan. Some significant literary studies have been carried on the oriental images of their works published during the exile, particularly on the Chinese impact on the Russian poets. But there is not the detailed consideration on the Japanese and Korean images in their writings. The popular zoologist and animalist, Nikolay Baikov (1872-1958), left many diaries and short stories on his travels in Japan and Korea, and some interesting poets and fiction authors like Victoria (1909-1999) and Valery Yankovsky (1911-2010), used images of Korean nature and people. Nowadays these works are getting popularity among Russian, Japanese and Korean researchers as a kind of reconstructing the old Japan and Korea, as a kind of reinventing those Asian images through the eyes of Europeans.

The paper deals with the way of stylization and hybridization of Asian traditions and customs in the White émigré diaries, essays and short poems in the so-called “oriental style”. The work is a part of the project connected with the comparative study of the Russian attitude towards Nature and the Japanese/Korean living way among natural surroundings, “The Russian view on Nature and the East Asian view on Nature”. The poetic works and travel diaries of Yosano Tekkan (872-1935) and Akiko (1878-1942), poems of Wakayama Bokusui (1885-1928), sketches, diaries and essays of Kinoshita Mokutaro (1885-1945), children poems, diaries and “shohin” written by Kitahara Hakushu (1886-1942), poems and diaries of Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933) and others writings have been studied as the complex of the Asian view on Nature during their trips to Manchuria, Korea and Sakhalin. The other portion of the project includes the Russian look at Asian countries and people.

The “local” Russians who originally came from the Russian Far East knew customs and traditions of both Japan and Korea more than inhabitants of two Russian capitals – Moscow and Sankt Petersburg. For example, the family of Yankovsky was very strong in their desire to explore the south of Siberia. They built their houses, deer farms and scallop plantations far from large cities and villages, fought against Chinese poachers. And in their free time the whole family organized the reading parties, amateur theatre. Daughters were involved in the long correspondence with famous writers and poets of their time, Konstantin Balmont (1867-1942), for example. In such specific surroundings and hard living experience when the whole family managed to escape from the Bolshevik’s Russia in 1924 and moved to the Northern Korea Yuri (the head of the family) and the older son Valery Yankovsky kept writing his recordings of their life and tiger hunting (titled “Nenuni[1] [1], or half a century of tiger hunting”). Though their life in the deep Korean forests was not easy, the Yankovsky again and again put amateur plays in their theatre, invited other White Russians in their estate Novina, created an unusual Russian resort at the coast of the Sea of Japan. They could support the artistic movement among the émigré in Harbin and Seoul. The daughter of Yuri, Victoria, left some fiction works and poems in the so-called “Japanese” and “Korean style” like “Tanka” and “Four Kakemono”. The specific Far Eastern nature played there its significant role.

It is important to search whether these writings were influenced with the western orientalism or their works may be considered as results of the authors’ direct contacts with the Japanese/Korean cultures. The problem is if these works should be considered a chain in the long translational process or just an act of life? And, as a whole, reformulating the question, if the translation is an act of presentation or an act of experience?

Key Words: Russian émigré writers and poets, Japanese and Korean images, orientalism, stylization and tradition, direct contacts, borrowing from other cultures


[1] [2] Nenuni, in the local dialect means “sharp-sighted”.


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URL to article: http://www.najaks.org/?p=880

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[1] [1]: #_ftn1

[2] [1]: #_ftnref1