Untangling and Re-spinning the Web: Translations of Metaphor in Tanizaki’s “Shisei”


  • Shani Tobias Monash University


literary translation, translation strategies, translation of metaphor


This article evaluates strategies for translating metaphor from Japanese to English adopted by five translators of Japanese author Tanizaki Jun’ichiro’s short story “Shisei”. Metaphor is a key literary device, and its translation poses the challenges of switching between different cultural, conceptual and linguistic frames of reference. Therefore, the effect of the particular strategies adopted is central to how the literary work is received by the target readership. Research into metaphor translation strategies has only emerged recently, and focuses mainly on European languages. The much larger linguistic and cultural divide between Japanese and English may require a different mix of strategies to effectively convey the author’s style and imagery. This case study shows significant differences in strategies among translators and demonstrates the importance of interpretation in literary translation. Furthermore, in order to recreate similar effects, translators must decipher the intratextual network of metaphors and maintain these sub-texts in their translation.

Author Biography

  • Shani Tobias, Monash University

    Shani Tobias is a PhD candidate and teaches in the Master of Interpreting and Translation Studies Program at Monash University.