I am Japanese and I learned to swear in Romanian from VICE Romania articles

Tettyo Saito writer, Romanian and Japanese

Japanese writer Tettyo Saito. Photo from personal archive

Five years ago, my soul was in an unlimited abyss. No work, no money, no friends. Nothing nothing. What remained in me was depression and autism spectrum disorder. While living a dark life as a hikikomori, my mother and father hated me as if I were a beetle laying its eggs in the house. But I couldn’t go anywhere, so I was in my room wasting a time like the eternity of dizziness.

Only movies healed my soul. Only when I watched movies could I forget the explosive sadness, the destructive anxiety and the quiet anger for the world itself. And every time I wrote a review about the movie I saw, pretending to be a movie critic, I was trying to keep my dignity cheap.

And I met a Romanian film called Policeman, adjective, by Corneliu Porumboiu. This is about a policeman who suffers because of his professional ethics when Romania was about to enter the European Union, but I was surprised by how different the cinematic grammar of this film was from others I saw. Humor with a black heart, sharp criticism of the suffocating reality of his country, but the most surprising element was his detailed realism, which had a gray elegance like Zen culture. There were many surreal moments in contradiction, realism surpassing physiological phenomena such as blinking. I fell in reverence.

Since then, I started to see a lot of Romanian films. From the films of contemporary directors, such as those of Porumboiu (Was it or was it not? and Treasure), Cristi Puiu (Goods and money and Aurora) or Radu Muntean (Boogie) to masters’ films, such as some by Lucian Pintilie (Reconstruction, Libra and The afternoon of a torturer), Malvina Urșianu (Mona Lisa without a smile and A light on the tenth floor) and Mircea Daneliuc (Cruise and Marital bed). And I thought I had to learn the Romanian language, if I wanted to understand the Romanian film and its culture more deeply.

For the study, I used three textbooks, because there are only three Romanian language textbooks written in Japan. And while I continued to read the film reviews written by Flavia Dima, Victor Morozov, Călin Boto and Andrei Gorzo, I also read articles on VICE Romania. That is, we learned Romanian grammar and vocabulary by comparing translations on VICE Romania and original articles in English on VICE US or UK. But I read a lot of articles about sex and porn, so the number of obscene words in my vocabulary increased.

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Tettyo Saito and two of his favorite novels. Photo from personal archive

And with this way of studying, I started translating film reviews and stories that I had continued to write since I was in college. Of course, my translation was crappy, although I had a sense of accomplishment at the same time. And what appeared second in my soul was a desire for my stories in Romanian to be read by Romanians, more and more, day by day.

About this time, I met a Romanian novel called A horse in a sea of ​​swans, by Raluca Nagy, about an international student living in Tokyo, my hometown. And I knew this novel was inspired by shishosetsu (ego-novel), a kind of Japanese novel I had researched at university. Deeply interested in the novel that seemed to be Japanese literature written in Romanian, I sent him a message: “The novel you wrote is the first Romanian novel I will read in Romanian.”

A few months later, I met Raluca-san (I always call her that) in Roppongi, Tokyo. eating room, we talked about Romanian film and literature. This conversation with a Romanian in the real world was the first experience for me, so it was more than extraordinary. But more, more extraordinary was that, after that, Raluca-san read my story in Romanian and said: “Fresh!”.

I was translating a few stories with the huge confidence that Raluca-san had given me. And becoming a little reckless, I posted a message on Facebook: “I, a Japanese, am writing a story about the dark side of Japan in Romanian, are you interested?”.

Many answers came, but one of them was from Mihail Victus, a writer and editor of the literary magazine LiterNautica. Seriously, my heart almost exploded with his message: “Hello! Can you show me one of the stories about the “Dark Side of Japan”? ” And he said that if it was good, he would publish it on LiterNautica. Damn, FUCK. After I sent it, I waited in an ambiguity of delight and anxiety, I kept waiting, waiting, waiting…

“Hey, I really liked your stories. I want to publish them on LiterNautica. ”

And my story called was published “An Ordinary Japanese” and I became the first Japanese to write a story in Romanian. It was April 1st, the day of the fools, can you believe it? But I live this trick like the euphoric dream of the drunk then, really.

A year and six months have passed since this decisive moment and I have experienced various things. Twenty stories have been published in several literary magazines, such as LiterNautica, EgoPhobia, A Thousand Signs and Ithaca. I became friends with Romanian writers like Radu Găvan, Cornel Bălan and Teodor Bordeianu. I accepted the wonderful words from Romanian readers: “Wonderful!”, “Welcome! This text is very well written “,” Congratulations, a text full of vigor and interesting sensory images “,” Your Romanian is damn fake. Go to hell! ”,“ You make the Romanian language more blasphemous. You are a shame for Romania ”and“ Fă harakiri! ”.

But the most surprising encounter happened in Japan, a few months after I became a writer in Romania, when the Japanese translation of the book was published. Squaring the circle, written by Gheorghe Săsărman. Its translator, Haruya Sumiya, is the god for Japanese people who love Romanian literature. If he didn’t live, we would never read novels by Mircea Eliade, Zaharia Stancu or Liviu Rebreanu in Japanese.

At this time, an editor at the Tokyo Sougen publishing house, who published Squaring the circle, he sent me a wonderful message: Mr. Sumiya read my stories in Romanian. I was in great piety. After a few months, he sent me a friend request on Facebook and I felt as if my brain was beating with euphoria. And, fortunately, Mr. Sumiya read me the story “Japanese Lives Matter”, which I published on LiterNautica, offering a huge compliment: “Once again, I was impressed by your exceptional talent.” This meeting is too bright for me, so I decided that I would become a more wonderful writer in Romanian.

Now it’s a difficult situation. I had a plan to publish a collection of stories called “An Ordinary Japanese and Other Animos.” But I was turned down not only because my stories are “too grotesque and violent,” but because Romanian publishers can’t publish a new book because of the corona virus. I became a writer in Romania under extremely difficult conditions! (So, if you are interested in my book reading this article, please send me a message on Facebook.)

But when I was in a stagnant frustration, I had this offer from VICE Romania. I am quite honored because I read the articles on VICE Romania when I was studying Romanian, as I wrote. Please don’t worry, I don’t use obscene words in this article.

On October 8, when the Nobel Prize for Literature went to Luise Glück, a Romanian literary critic posted a question: ? “. And someone said, “Tettyo Saito.” Yes, yes, I know this is a joke, but it’s the most magnificent joke I’ve ever heard. I dreamed of winning the Nobel Prize for literature as a Romanian writer, not a Japanese one.

Tettyo Saito is a writer, literary and film critic. He wrote literature in three languages: English, Japanese and Romanian. He lives in Tokyo.

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