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Translation: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – Prologue

Well, I finally finished translating the prologue of the novel. A bunch of people have asked me what it’s about, and until now all I could say was “I haven’t finished nearly enough to even know.” Now I have at least an inkling, and you can too.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – Prologue

I don’t know when I stopped believing in Santa Claus or other childish fantasies. I may never have really believed in a red-suited old man carrying presents. Even as a kindergardener, I understood that the Santa who appeared at Youchi Park’s Christmas events was a fake. I think the children around me realized this as well, and that the teachers saw his costume for what it was.

The jobless old men who only seemed wise during Christmas were members of a whole class of beings. Space people and future people; ghosts, poltergeists, and evil conspiracies; these are the subjects of anime and manga and special effects films, but neither they nor the heroes to oppose them exist in the real world.

Well, I’m pretty sure I figured out the truth. There’s really only one thing I didn’t figure out. But from the bottom of my heart, I truly wished for some evidence of space people or future people; ghosts, poltergeists, or evil conspiracies.

Compared to the ordinary world of “wake up in the morning, sleep at night”, there’s something charming about the worlds inside anime, manga, and special effects films, isn’t there?

I was born in this world. But that doesn’t mean this is the world I want to live in. I want to live in a world where maidens are kidnapped into garangutan transparant pea pods by aliens; a world where people travel in time with raygun in hand to reform history for the better; a world in which phantoms and spectres carry out their supernatural vengeance; a world of secret conspiracies and psychic battles. I want to live in that world!

No, wait, calm down. What would I do, supposing that space aliens or anything else on that list came to raid the earth? It’s not like I’m some master swordsman.

What if a person were to join my class–a person with a mysterious power. The space aliens and time travellers and so forth could all be hiding behind the scenes, just waiting to emerge and do battle with that person. I could enjoy becoming embroiled in their battle–not as the main character, but as a follower. I am a smart man for thinking up this wonderful scheme.

Or this might be interesting: what if I one day was awakened to previously latent mysterious abilities? Teleportation or psychokinesis; that sort of thing. Presumably, shortly after my powers manifested, I (and others similarly talented) would be inducted into some secret organization to wage war against would-be despots and rogue super-powered people. Maintaining the cover, of a normal world devoid of super powers and extraordinary circumstances, would of course be one of our duties.

However, reality is surprisingly strict. Somehow, no exchange students ever came to my class, and there were no UFO sightings. I loitered at any number of local haunted spots without meeting any sort of ghost or poltergeist. I stared at a pencil on my desk for two hours in desperation: it didn’t move a micron. I glared at the back of the head of the girl in front of me for an entire class period: I couldn’t read a single thought.

As my appreciation of the laws of nature grew, my zeal for the “UFO Specials” and “Paranormal Editions” on TV disappeared. I realized with chagrin that my desires simply weren’t realistic, but at the same time, I came to appreciate the elegant construction of reality. Even so, no matter how much I grow up, I will always cherish the hope for the supernatural.

The transition from youthful dreams to the ordinary world of adulthood happened around the time I graduated from middle school. 1999 brought forth all sorts of millenial dreams, but none of them came true. In the dawn of the 21st century, humankind still sits reluctant to travel as far as our own moon; a far cry from the dream that within my lifetime, it might be a day trip to Alpha Centauri.

These were the things I was absent-mindedly musing about as I became a high school student—-and that’s when I met Haruhi Suzumiya.

If you’re interested, there are complete translations available elsewhere online. I’m translating this for myself for two reasons: I’m not convinced that the other translator is more accomplished at Japanese than I am, and it’s an eight book series which I (in theory) might fininish before the other guy does.

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Comment by walligowdy
2006-07-28 15:13:02

Haha sounds like it’ll be an interesting read. I’m actually pretty impressed with your translation, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; you have a more sophisticated knowledge of the english language than most people I know.

Comment by coriolinus
2006-07-29 00:59:29

Well, don’t be too impressed; I did my best to make it sound good, but I was definitely guessing for a sensible meaning for quite a few of those paragraphs.


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