What was the seed for “Printable”?
A news story I saw about being able to print a gun with a 3D printer. I just didn’t realize it would happen for some reason, even though it was obvious that we’d end up being able to print guns down the line.
What is your answer to: “Which is scarier: that the past could actually change or that you could just think it did?”
“I just think it did”!
I don’t really trust our ability to remember things and I’m really fed up with how much people try their best to justify themselves.
More than a Cartesian story, “Printable” felt to me like a literary representation of the Escher staircase: returning always to its beginning, but forever going up in space which makes that impossible. What was your goal for this story? Something more than an examination of Descartes’ demons and brains in vats, I think.
I often think about the discussion surrounding “brains in vats.” You know, lately I find myself having a hard time telling the difference between a brain that floats in a tank and a brain that floats in a skull. To say something geometrical . . . I think it would be amazing if a new geometrical structure not known to anyone was discovered while I was writing.
I did not expect Kant to show up in the last line. Did you?
I realized it when I finished writing, like “Huh, this was probably a story about Kant’s ‘thing-in-itself.’”
What are the challenges of punctuation and paragraph breaks in translation to/from English/Japanese?
David Boyd did the translation. I think the translator should be able to translate as they like. If that means better quality, then having them change the order around is good enough for me.
A widely quoted summary characterizes your work as known for its “scientific lucidity and literary impenetrability”—do you think that’s accurate?
That may be the correct expression. But novellas are firstly lines of words and lucidity and impenetrability are characteristics that those lines of words have . . . I can’t say whether that kind of sentence is lucid or impenetrable.
What’s been the most interesting reader interaction around “Printable”?
I don’t get any . . . reactions.
I don’t read any . . . reviews.
What else would you like readers to know about this story or take away from it?
That there is an author. But that the author is writing this novella in a different language and that the translation may not be correct.
It is correct, though. But you could say that even the sentence “this translation is correct” has been translated. This answer, too, has been translated by someone else. But I exist. Maybe.
Whose story made you work the hardest to appreciate it?
I had a lot of trouble with Jacques Roubaud’s “Our Beautiful Heroine”, but it was fun to read. The most fearsome writer out there is Marguerite Yourcenar. It took me 15 years to finish reading “The Abyss” . . . I don’t even feel like I understood it at all, though.
Who is your favourite author to read in translation?
James Joyce, if you’re talking about English to Japanese. For Japanese to English, Murasaki Shikibu. The Tale of Genji translated by Arthur Waley is a good one.
Any projects or news you want to tell us about?
I’m thinking about writing novellas that are a bit easier to translate. But the story I’m working on now is about creating new Chinese characters . . .
Spread the word!