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At the canal [short stories]

 今回は、夏休みの宿題にしていたものを発表。それは、昨年書いた短編小説『運河』を英訳することであった。この作品を英語にしたものを時々職場に来ているアイルランド人に読んでもらったところ、悪い反応ではなかった。自分で訳したのかと言うので、そうだ答える。Almost perfectと言われたので、やはりどこは不自然なところがあるに違いないのだが、指摘してもらっていないので分からない。随分昔に大学卒業間近に書いた『悪魔の説教』と言う短編を訳したが、それも反応は悪くなかった。翻訳したものをある人物に貸したのだが、それが10年以上前、戻ってきていない。今もう一度訳せば、全く別の作品になってしまうのだろうと思う。
 ちなみに、このアイルランド人はJoyceやCamusなどが好きだと言っていたので、読者としてはこの上ない。

Atigress.JPGt the Canal   There was a rumour spreading in the northern town that a Siberian tigress had been seen in the vicinity of the canal.  The tigress, they said, turns into a beautiful woman at night, spends the night with drunken men and disappears in the morning, leaving their eaten corpses. I thought that I had read about the same tigress in an Indian or Persian story-book as a child, and since I was fascinated by this rumour, I changed into shabby clothes so that I could walk along the dark canal and drink to my heart’s content at a small tavern with a red lantern at its entrance. A rumour of this sort keeps people indoors. As a matter of fact, I was the only soul in the street. The faint street lamps were glimmering in vain.  The sound of a rolling empty tin caught my attention as I kicked it without knowing. In a deafening silence, the careless sound in fortissimo in a pianissimo like this could be good sound effects implying an incident.     Knowing something in advance sometimes makes you more careful, prepared but prejudiced. Without it, you will make a real effort to know and discover something you didn’t expect. I was looking back upon a walk with Hog-Hog, my good old dog, in the wood near my house. There are lots of exposed fossils of ancient animals such as ammonites, graptolites and sea lilies on the cliff. We could come across an archaeopteryx flying across before us or a huge meganeura pursuing crows. ‘Mr. Misogynist!’ said a vaguely familiar voice from behind. When I turned my face, who should I meet but the Madonna or Dulcinea in our high school days. In those days I was too shy and naïve to speak to girls, which led my classmates to call me Misogynist.‘What upon earth are you doing here, Miss M? You haven’t changed at all!’‘I just felt like travelling and came here.’‘It’s interesting to find your impressions unchanged though over twenty-five years has passed since our leaving high school.’‘And vice versa. It was easy to recognize who you were at the sight of your back.’‘Beautiful young days! By the way, do you have time? Since we are old enough, nothing will happen. Why don’t we chat about our high school days at a tavern?’‘That’s an idea,’ she agreed in her attractive way as before.‘There’s one over there. Bright. Looks good, doesn’t it?’ Every house and shop was lit only by its lamp at the entrance except the shining tavern in the dusk of the evening to which we were going.   We entered and found that there were a lot of people drinking, eating or talking happily. But I could not make out what they were talking. We took a seat in the corner and enjoyed recollecting school days over vodka.‘You were a fast runner. A relay runner. You were the fastest or the second of the girls in the class?’‘Maybe. I don’t know.’‘I do remember you were. You ran in the relay race like a black leopard. I just adored you. You are so slender! All the time I thought of you. Of course besides me there were millions of boys who admired you.’At this, she laughed very contentedly. And we moved on to the next topic, School Festival.‘School Festival. Do you remember that? Almost everybody is a passer-by and nobody feels active participation in this event. Only some students participate enthusiastically. Indifference prevails. Actually, the teachers are even more indifferent.’‘Objectively or rather as if I was an outsider, I was watching it. And I miss that sense of the irresponsibility, the psychology of the young people still on their way to maturity. Disobedience to grown-ups and refusal of maturity!’‘On the last day of the festival, we danced folk-dances in a circle round the camp-fire, remember?’‘No, I’m afraid not. I went to see another high school’s festival.’‘While dancing, I imagined dancing hand in hand with you. But you weren’t there.’‘Really? I didn’t know that. Mais je suis tres heureuse. Merci!‘French becomes you.’‘What language becomes you?’‘Me? I would say Russian, maybe. I can’t speak it, but as I wanted and tried to learn it a bit.’‘You are as mysterious as ever. Oh that reminds me. You didn’t eat lunch, did you?’‘I feel greatly honoured that you remember it.’ Our conversation went on and on in this manner. At my age, it is enjoyable having a conversation with a woman which will never develop into an avowal of love. ‘We’re closing soon,’ said a voice. We were very happy to talk about our old days, however, neither of us proposed to meet again. We are mature and therefore we respect each other’s life. On the following day, I read a newspaper: A man was found dead in the canal. Several parts of his body were bitten off by a very sharp pointed weapon, most probably of an animal of the cat family. This is the third case. Then, I realized my death at last.

 


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