A Few Notes on Reading ‘Diary of a Vagabond’

This post is based on a short presentation I gave at Waseda University last year, as part of my research there.

Publication history

Hayashi Fumiko’s ‘Hōrōki’ (『放浪記』, referred to throughout as ‘Diary of a Vagabond’) has a rather complex publication history.

  1. On May 7th 1930, Kaizōsha published ‘Diary of a Vagabond’ as a standalone volume as part of its series New Literature Series (shin’ei bungaku sōsho, 新鋭文學叢書). In addition, on May 11th 1930, Kaizōsha also published ‘Diary of a Vagabond – Continued’ (『続 放浪記』) as a standalone volume in tankōbon format.
  2. In 1933, Kaizōsha published these two texts together in bunkōbon format under the title ‘Diary of a Vagabond and Diary of a Vagabond – Continued’ (『放浪記・続放浪記』).
  3. In June 1937, Kaizōsha published ‘Hayashi Fumiko Selection’ (「林芙美子選集」).
  4. In 1939, Shinchōsha published ‘Diary of a Vagabond – The Definitive Edition’ (『放浪記‐決定版』).

On top of this, in 1949 Hayashi published another book entitled ‘Diary of a Vagabond – Part Three’ 『放浪記第三部』, published by Rume Shoten [留女書店]). The bunkōbon collection from Shinchōsha that is currently (2019) on the market includes ‘Diary of a Vagabond’, ‘Diary of a Vagabond – Continued’ and ‘Diary of a Vagabond – Part Three’, referred to in the bunkōbon as ‘Part One’, ‘Part Two’ and ‘Part Three’.

What we talk about when we talk about reading ‘Diary of a Vagabond’…

The sections of ‘Diary of a Vagabond’ which were serialized in Nyōnin geijutsu were not simply published as-is in the 1930 Kaizōsha edition. The Kaizōsha edition shows many changes in order, alterations to avoid censorship, and other edits for which scholars have not determined a clear purpose. And the Shinchōsha ‘Definitive Edition’ also differs considerably from the original. The purpose of these notes is to explore the differences between these three published versions of ‘Diary of a Vagabond’ and consider how they might be read, particularly from the point of view of a prospective translator.

While Hayashi Fumiko was alive she made countless revisions to ‘Diary of a Vagabond’, to the point where it’s honestly possible that there’s no novel so worked over in Japanese. This complicates the question of what it means to read ‘Diary of a Vagabond’. As Mori Ei’ichi writes (translations throughout are mine):

正続の『放浪記』はもちろん多くの読者を獲得したのだが、決定版の本文による以後の『放浪記』も多数の読者を得ているわけで、異質の作品とも思われる大巾な異同を持つ両『放浪記』では読者の感動が異質なものなのか、あるいはそこに共通性が発見できるのかという問題が生じてくる。それは『放浪記』の作品素材が持つ普遍性が作品本文の異同をも意に介しないものなのかどうかということでもある。

Naturally the first publication of ‘Diary of a Vagabond’ and its continuation garnered many readers, but the ‘Definitive Edition’ also certainly gained plenty of readers, and so the question arises: is there a difference in the feelings of the readers of these two versions of ‘Diary of a Vagabond’ which have so many differences that they could be considered different works altogether, or can some commonality be found there? That is, the question is whether or not the universality of the material of ‘Diary of a Vagabond’ means the differences don’t matter.

If the reader’s experience is different depending on which version they read, then this is an issue which any researcher must consider. But I think this is an even more important question for a prospective translator such as myself to contemplate.

I’d like to show my work here so you know exactly what I mean. First, it almost goes without saying, but reading a novel that’s been serialized in a magazine is a vastly different physical and temporal experience than reading a novel in standalone tankōbon or bunkōbon format. Next, reading a text that has been xx’ed out (伏せ字) to avoid censorship versus reading one where all traces of censorship have been obfuscated couldn’t be more different, and not only will a researcher or translator dealing with a text that doesn’t show obvious signs of censorship have an experience of the text that is distinct from that of a reader at the time of original publication, but this gap in experience may also have an impact on the general understanding of the original historical landscape.

A practical demonstration of the issue…

As Hirohata Kenji writes, the first Kaizōsha edition has many sections which differ from the ‘Nyōnin geijutsu’ version, and changes made in order to try to deceive the censorship bureau are fairly obvious. For example, this is from the ‘Nyōnin geijutsu’ version:

ハイハイ私は、お芙美さんは、ルンペンプロレタリアで御座候だ。何もない。何も御座無く候だ。
あぶないぞ!あぶないぞ!あぶない無産者故、バクレツダンを持たしたら、喜んで持てる奴等にぶち投げるだろう。こんな女が、一人うぢうぢ生きてゐるより早くパンパンと、地球を眞二ツにしてしまはうか。

Hai hai, watashi wa, O-fumi-san wa, runpen proretaria de gozan soro da. Nani mo nai. Nani mo gozan naku soro da.
Abunai zo! Abunai zo! Abunai musansha ko, bakuretsudan wo motashitara, yorokonde moteru yatsura ni buchinageru darō. Konna onna ga, hitori ujiuji ikiteiru yori hayaku panpan to, chikyu wo mafutatsu ni shite shimau ka.

Yes yes, I am, O-fumi-san is lumpen proletariat. I’m nothing. I am nothing.
Danger! Danger! You dangerous proletariats, if you gave me a bomb, I’d throw it with pleasure at the guys who have them. I’m the kind of woman who’d rather go out quickly with a bang than live alone hesitantly, and I might split the world in two.

Compare with the Kaizōsha edition:

ハイハイ私は、お芙美さんは、ルンペンプロレタリアで御座候だ。何もない。何も御座無く候だ。
あぶないぞ!あぶないぞ!あぶない、バクレツダンを持たしたら、喜んで持たせた奴等にぶち投げるだろう。こんな女が、うぢうぢ生きてゐるより早くパンパンと、☓☓を二ツにしてしまはうか。

Hai hai, watashi wa, O-fumi-san wa, runpen proretaria de gozan soro da. Nani mo nai. Nani mo gozan naku soro da.
Abunai zo! Abunai zo! Abunai, bakuretsudan wo motashitara, yorokonde motaseta yatsura ni buchinageru darō. Konna onna ga, ujiuji ikiteiru yori hayaku panpan to, XX ni futatsu ni shite shimau ka.

Yes yes, I am, O-fumi-san is lumpen proletariat. I’m nothing. I am nothing.
Danger! Danger! Danger, If I had a bomb, I’d throw it with pleasure at the guys who gave it to me. I’m the kind of woman who’d rather go out quickly with a bang than live alone hesitantly, and I might split the XX in two.

Hirohata doesn’t cite the Shinchōsha ‘Definitive Edition’ but I think the comparison and any conclusions are incomplete without it, so here we go:

何も御座無く候だ。あぶないぞ! あぶないぞ! あぶない不精者故、バクレツダンを持たしたら、喜んでそこら辺へ投げつけるだろう。こんな女が一人うじうじ生きているよりも、いっそ早く、真二ツになって死んでしまいたい。

Nani mo gozan naku soro da. Abunai zo! Abunai zo! Abunai bushōmono ko, bakuretsudan wo motashitara, yorokonde sokorahen e nagetsukeru darō. Konna onna ga hitori ujiuji ikiteiru yori mo, isso hayaku, ma futatsu ni natte shinde shimaitai.

I am nothing. Danger! Danger! You dangerous lazy good-for-nothings, if I had a bomb, I’d throw it in that direction with pleasure. I’m the kind of woman who’d rather split in two and die quickly than live alone hesitantly.

Obviously there are numerous changes across these three versions of the same passage, but one of the slightest is actually one that should attract the most attention: the change from ‘proletariat’ (無産者) to ‘lazy good-for-nothings’ (不精者), and the change from ‘the guys who have [bombs]’ (持てる奴等) to ‘the guys who gave it to me’ (持たせた奴等).

As Hirohata says:

初出型の「不精者」と「持たせた奴等」では、文意が通じない。それでは同士討ちを意味してしまう。これは、芙美子が検閲を欺くため、わざと舌足らずの言葉を用いたと考える。(中略)「ルンペンプロレタリアで御座候」という前段の言葉は、「不精者」は「無産者」に読み替えろという、読者に対する芙美子のヒントである。「地球を眞ニツ」は、当然に関東大震災を暗示する。

At first appearance, ‘lazy good-for-nothings’ and ‘the guys who gave it to me’ do not carry any meaning. Then they appear to signify ‘friendly fire’. This is an example of Fumiko attempting to avoid censorship by intentionally using imprecise words. […] The phrase in the first sentence, ‘[I am] lumpen proletariat’ is Fumiko’s hint to readers that ‘lazy good-for-nothings’ (bushōmono) should be read as ‘proletariat’ (musansha) instead. ‘Split the earth in two’ naturally implies the Great Kanto Earthquake.

Putting to one side for a moment the changes made in an attempt to avoid censorship, what jumps out is that in the ‘Definitive Edition’ the beginning of the section (from “Hai hai” or “Yes yes” to “Nani mo nai” or “I am nothing”) has been removed. I’d find it difficult to state decisively that this removal of the phrase “[I am] lumpen proletariat” in the Shinchōsha edition is proof of Hayashi’s desire to hide her connection with the anarchism and Marxism of the time, but nevertheless, without the ‘hint’ of the phrase ‘lumpen proletariat’, the historical sense of the text is completely altered.

A far more surprising change is the change from ‘I might split the world in two’ to ‘[I’d] rather split in two and die quickly’. The focus of the narrator’s anger is shifted from ‘the world’ to ‘I’, changing the reader’s understanding from a universal reading to a more personal one. In short, a narrator who says she is ‘lumpen proletariat’ may naturally be expected to ‘split the world in two’, but a narrator who doesn’t bear the ideology represented by the words ‘lumpen proletariat’ can only focus her anger inward on herself and would consequently ‘rather split in two and die quickly’.

These two changes affect the meaning of the text much more deeply than the words which were clearly altered to avoid censorship, and they help to build a very different impression of the narrator of ‘Diary of a Vagabond’.

For this reason, anyone who’s going to conduct research or carry out a new translation of ‘Diary of a Vagabond’ needs to spend serious time comparing the three major extant versions before beginning. But I feel these issues are broadly relevant to anyone working with texts which have undergone censorship (whether external or self-initiated) and been published in multiple forms over time. To what degree can we determine what ‘the text’ is? How can a translation or research work reflect this multiplicity of a text, and what is the responsibility of a translator or researcher in excavating these layers of meaning? Our work forms opinions and understandings of not only an author or a text but of the historical, societal and political contexts in which the author and text were born, and I would say it is our duty to, above all else, take care.


References:

Mori, Ei’ichi. ‘Hayashi Fumiko no keisei: sono sei to hyōgen’, Yūsei-dō shuppan, 1992.

Hirohata, Kenji. ‘Shinsai bungaku to shite no hōrōki: Hayashi Fumiko wa ken’etsu tōkyoku to ikani tatakatta no ka’, Shakai bungaku, issue 39 (p 95 – 104), 2014.

Additional resources in English:

Ericson, Joan. Be a Woman: Hayashi Fumiko and Modern Japanese Women’s Literature, University of Hawaii Press, 1997.

Fessler, Susanna. Wandering Heart: The Work and Method of Hayashi Fumiko, State University of New York Press, 1998.

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