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#1 2016-01-31 22:11:52

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Перевод с английского. Проза.

From 'Aokigahara' by Jennifer Down

We pulled in to a carpark. We’d arrived suddenly. I hadn’t been looking for signs. Mr. Ukai sat for a moment after he cut the ignition, looking at something I couldn’t see in the rear-view mirror. I thought he was going to ask me if I was ready, but he just reached into the back seat for his plastic water canteen.

From the car boot he took out a smaller women’s rain jacket and handed it to me. He retrieved a backpack, a torch, and a length of fluorescent-yellow nylon cord, neatly coiled. That nearly brought me to my knees. I had a bad feeling in the guts. It smelled like new earth out here, petrichor; like bright air. I tried to think about that instead of the nylon cord.

Mr. Ukai shut the boot gently. He slung the backpack over his shoulder, and his waterproof jacket gave out a rustle.

‘Ja, ikōka?’

We started toward the entrance. The leaves were wet underfoot.

‘People say it’s a mystical place, they say, nanka, many kind of thing, but it’s just a forest,’ he said. ‘The mystery is why are so many people sad.’

It struck me as a distinctly un-Japanese thing to say. The woods were darker than I’d imagined. It was all electric green moss and untamed tree roots crawling over the forest floor. It felt prehistoric. We came to a length of yellow rope stretched across the path. There was a sign that said No Entry. Mr. Ukai stepped right over it, then held it down so I could do the same.

‘I think it is best, from here, if I walk first,’ he said. He inclined his head. I nodded.

‘Of course.’

‘Cammy-san. If the experience becomes too heavy, nanka, tsurai – we will go back to my car. Please do not be troubled. Do – not – hesitate.’

He pronounced my name kami, like ‘god’. I nodded again. I had my thumbs looped through the straps of my backpack. I felt like a child on an excursion.

We fell into step single file, me behind him. I wondered what he’d meant, exactly, with his polite, broken English. There was such a chasm between us. I thought about Eri saying ‘I can’t go with you’.

I kept my eyes fixed on Mr. Ukai’s back, or on my own running shoes, caked with wet leaves. When he started humming to himself, I thought it must be safe to look up. There was tape everywhere, strung between trees. Some of the trunks had numbers spray-painted on them. Mr. Ukai stepped off the main trail onto a smaller one. He looked back at me. He said, daijōbu? and I said daijōbu. I could feel sweat cooling on my neck.

It had been weeks before the funeral took place. There were complications bringing Tommy’s body back. For a while the Japanese seemed to think there should be an autopsy, and that they should be the ones to undertake it, but that faded. I took half a valium before the service and another after I’d read my eulogy.

There was no word for closure in Japanese. I’d looked it up online in my hotel room the other night.

Mr. Ukai had stopped humming. He was walking respectfully, if that were possible. Everything he did was gentle. He surveyed the forest calmly. His eyes went everywhere. I flinched at it.

There was human detritus everywhere. Plastic umbrellas, food wrappers, mittens, lengths of rope, a bicycle, a pair of scissors, a blue tarpaulin. The trees were so thick overhead, I wondered how they let any light through. I could see why Tommy would have loved it here.

Mr. Ukai paused. He waited until I was beside him, then he pointed at the base of a tree a little way off the path. There was a marker at its base. Someone had left a bouquet of flowers, pink cellophane, and a tiny banquet of food, laid out on a piece of cloth.

‘It is recent,’ Mr. Ukai said. ‘Maybe someone else is making our same journey today.’

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