Literary translation help

Hi everyone, I’m translating 「桃」by 阿部昭 for a class and I’m very frustrated to find that I can’t wrap my head around the very first sentence xp.


Maybe it’s just the ambiguity (is he saying I はずだ or you はずだ?), maybe it’s just my own incompetence, but I need help xp. Apart from that I or you problem I find it most difficult to figure out if the と is short for という(の)or if it’s a particle with 聞かされて, and what is even the hierarchy in this sentence supposed to be?? Aaargh, I’m just completely stuck, so if anyone could help, please, I would be most grateful!


当てになる means reliable so
ぬ - is the literary form of ない.
当てにならぬ - not helping

人間の記憶が当てにならぬもの - things in which human memory is unreliable (or not helpful)
とは in this case is defining the clause above. So the rest of the sentence is defining what has already been said, if that makes sense…

So つねづね感通してもいるし - With things like personal bias constantly getting in the way (I honestly don’t know how to translate かんつう, LOL. It’s when your thoughts follow that of your friends or those around you according to the dictionary…maybe surrounding ideas? I dunno, LOL)
As for 聞かせる, it means to let someone hear, so I would translate that as “(I feel) people should hear this.”
So my attempt at translating would be

Human memories are so unreliable, with people constantly changing their recollections to fit those around them, this fact needs to be heard.

Probably incredibly wrong… :sweat_smile: Hope that helps!


Thanks a lot, even if it might be wrong, it at least gives me a possible translation and I can check with the rest of the text if it makes sense or not as I go on ^^ (Plus, if I would be totally wrong, my professor would correct me in the end anway… So nothing is lost!)


I’ve arrived at a slightly different nuance in some parts, but I don’t know whether this is correct by any means, so I’ll present it as well for contrast :upside_down_face:

人間の記憶が当てにならぬもの - The human memory is an unreliable thing
とは、- quotation with a negative nuance, see とは - #2

つねづね - always
感通してもいる - I found the explanation 自分の思いなどが、相手に通じること。so probably something like “one’s own thoughts are continuously floating through it” or something? (Not sure whether 相手 strictly means other people or also other things, i.e. here the brain?)
し、- because

聞かされてもいるはずだ。- you should have been informed about / you should be aware of. 聞かす -

So altogether:

The fact that the human brain is unreliable because it is constantly flooded by thoughts and feelings, is something you should already be aware of.


I hadn’t heard of quotation with a negative nuance yet :open_mouth:

Thanks for providing contrast! ^^

That was new to me as well! Jisho phrases it as “indicates contrast or adds emphasis to a negative statement” which is probably a better expression than mine.
(And I found it quite fitting, so I decided to go with it ^^)

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shouldn’t the verb be in a negative form for that to make sense though?

For that, Jisho usually annotates “with neg. verb” - see #4 for an example. So I thought #2 rather refers to a statement that is positive grammatically, but with a negative meaning, like in our case (if we agree that it’s undesirable that the memory is unreliable).
But not sure either way to be honest… curious to hear what your professor will suggest!


I see. Well, I’m curious too ^^

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I think it was already established that ならぬ is the negative, though. :grin:


Yes of course, but I thought the verb after had to be negative, not before, hence my confusion :open_mouth:

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Oh maybe that’s right!

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I’m going to go with:
I’ve always had a sense, and I’m sure I’ve been told, that human memory is unreliable.

I think 感通 has the meaning of conveying your feelings so it would really mean that he was aware of something.

聞かされる is a form of 聞く with the meaning of being asked something and the はず could be translated as something like should have been. So they should have been asked or told something

And as far as the first part goes 当て is the aim or goal of something so you can look at the phrase like the human memory has no aim which really means it is unreliable.

That’s my best guess anyway, good luck with the rest!!!


I have no solid grounds for this guess, but is there any chance that the two verbs (感通する and 聞かされる) are actions related to human memory and, therefore, why it can be considered unreliable (~とは=定義・命題)? A somewhat literal reading would be:

“Human memory is untrustworthy. It is always communicating with others, so it is inevitable that it be made to listen as well.”

This type of structure seems to be implied by the dual 「もいる」phrasing. One’s own memory is constantly trying to express itself/make itself be understood by others (based on the definition of 感通) and, therefore, it must be the case (はず) that it is also influenced by the memories of other people (reading 聞かされる with a nuance of 迷惑・被害の受身; so it doesn’t necessary want to hear/listen/be informed, but is forced to by the nature of communication).


I find that Japanese sentence structure is often opposite to English, so it helps to start translating a sentence from the back.
The ending はずだ makes me think that the subject of つねづね感通してもいるし、聞かされてもいるはずだ is the listener (“you”), rather than the speaker (はずだ expresses some degree of uncertainty, which makes it less likely that the speaker is talking about their own experience).
I think 感通 is a feeling in common (感じが通じる), but I don’t have a very elegant translation, so I’m going to go with the safe “feel”.
You can debate whether つねづね (always) modifies just 感通する or 聞かされる as well, I’ll go with the second option. The second half of the sentence would then be
“you have probably felt and been told constantly”
とは is the link between the stuff about 記憶 and the second part, I’ll translate it as “that”.
人間の記憶 is “human memory” and が当てにならぬもの means “is unreliable” (or if you want to make use of the もの, “is an unreliable thing”).
That gives us
“You have probably felt it, and been told constantly, that human memory is an unreliable thing”
Since this is literary prose, let’s 美化 it a bit
“You have probably noticed and been told time and again, that human memory is a most unreliable thing”.
Best I can do, definitely not the only possible translation.


I did a search on google about this sentence and it looks like there is a typo, it’s not 感通 but 痛感 ! :rofl:

The meaning is much clearer that way, something like:
The human memory is unreliable, it’s always fully apparent (to us/you) and (you/we) should have heard about it before.


Any chance ものとは is a typo as well? I want to say ものだとは; this aligns with ‘noun+だとは’ grammar point to mean ‘I can’t believe/I never expected…’ and would make sense to the context I believe to emphasize surprise (and not a conditional, conjugation or quotation usage here). It sounds better too but I’m not positive.とは-towa/


ooohhh my goodness I’m so sorry! I’ve been feeding all these helpful people lies xc

Aaaahhh this one too; I’m hopeless xccccc

So, once again, for everyone, the (double checked xp) correct sentence should be this:


As for this, thank you a lot, but don’t worry about bothering to write it more beautifully in English, I’m going to have to turn it into Dutch for my assignment anyway ^^

Everyone, thank you so much for giving me all these new perspectives and once again, I’m so, so sorry for all the typos! :bowing_man:


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