In response to:
Under the Mantle of Balázs from the July 14, 2011 issue
To the Editors:
In response to Eliot Weinberger’s concern [Letters, NYR, July 14], I would like to clarify the issue of the crediting of illustrations by Katakura Shigeo in my edition of Béla Balázs’s Cloak of Dreams.
I first came across Balázs’s tales in an excellent translation, Il Libro delle Meraviglie: Fiabe Taoiste, edited by Marinella d’Ales- sandro, in Rome during a research semester abroad. This translation was based on Balázs’s own Hungarian 1948 revision, originally published in German with the aquarelles by Mariette Lydis. When I returned to the States in 2007, I began translating the tales from Balázs’s 1922 German edition for the new series I edit at Princeton University Press, Oddly Modern Fairy Tales. We used the small Italian edition of Balázs’s tales for illustrations as it contained interesting anonymous black-and-white renderings of Lydis’s original artwork (the color originals were unusable). The Italian edition does not cite the name of the Japanese illustrator.
Princeton and I both did our due diligence and made several attempts to obtain permission and information first from the Italian publisher and then the Hungarian publisher without success, as neither had records about the artist who created the woodcuts. It was not until too late in production that I discovered Leitmann’s 1974 translation. I did not pay any attention to the illustrations (which I should have done) but more to Leitmann’s translation, which was very antiquated (with thee’s and thou’s) and had some gaps and omissions.
I am eager to give credit to Shigeo’s woodcuts, as is PUP, and I have been assured that we will acknowledge Shigeo properly in any future editions. Otherwise, Mr. Weinberger has declared twice now that he prefers Leitmann’s translation, and that’s his prerogative. Of course, preference is a matter of taste, and in this regard, he and I differ in opinion about how to write reviews and the significance of the unusual European book of fairy tales that I edited and translated in collaboration with Princeton University Press.