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Millán-Astray’s Translation of Nitobe’s Bushido: The Soul of Japan

  • Allison Beeby et
  • María Teresa Rodríguez

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Corps de l’article

1. Introduction

This article presents a case study of Inazo Nitobe’s Bushido: the Soul of Japan (1905) and of a Spanish translation, El Bushido. El alma de Japón (1941), by General Millán-Astray, the founder of the Spanish Foreign Legion. This case is of interest to Translation Studies for several reasons. Both source text (ST) and target text (TT) have been very influential over the years and we have been able to find sufficient contextual information to be able to suggest why they were produced at a particular moment in history. Furthermore, both texts were published with ample paratextual elements that also contribute to our reconstruction of the pretexts of both author and translator. The translation is a very clear example of what can happen to a text when the TT skopos is radically different from that of the ST and the translator manipulates the ST for ideological reasons. Finally, the publication of later editions of Millán-Astray’s translation with no mention of the translator or any of the original paratextual elements raises interesting questions about how the inclusion or omission of these elements affects the reader’s interpretation of text as discourse. The research is also of historical interest because it may shed light on the position of one of the ideologues of Spanish Fascism and the Nationalists’ attitude towards Japan in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, leading up to the Second World War.

Our study has drawn theoretical and methodological inspiration from many authors who contributed to the functional, discourse analysis and cultural turns in translation studies in the last decades of the twentieth century. There is no room in this article to pay tribute to all the different contributions, so we will just refer to the concepts and terms used here. We started from a functionalist/skopos approach (Reiss and Vermeer 1996; Nord 1997) and adapted Nord’s (1991) translation-oriented text analysis model with its extratextual and intratextual factors to fit our object of study: an ideologically motivated translation between distant cultures. Both ST and TT can be identified as hybrid examples of Orientalism (Said 1978). We also owe a debt to the contributors to The Manipulation of Literature, edited by Theo Hermans in 1985, both for their work in that volume and in later publications (Lefevere 1992, Bassnett and Lefevere 1990, Toury 1995 among others). They stressed the concept of translation as rewriting that reflects an ideology and may manipulate literature for a purpose. They also opened the way to a descriptive, functional and systemic approach to literary translation, oriented towards the TT and audience reception. We were looking for a way to adapt our analysis to include these concepts and finally adopted Widdowson’s terminology from Text, Context, Pretext. Critical Issues in Discourse (2004) because it suited our purposes. Widdowson is very critical of the failure of other discourse analysts to find a perfect discourse analysis theory and methodology, although he himself does not have all the answers. Of course, no model is perfect and analysts select the most adequate tools in relation to their object of study and research questions. Widdowson’s definitions of text as product and discourse as the interactive process between text and context are sound. His definition of “pretext” has been particularly useful, suggesting that the explicit reasons for taking a point of view or course of action may hide “an ulterior motive: a pretending to do one thing but intending to do something else” (Widdowson 2004: 79).

The author of Bushido: the Soul of Japan, Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933), was a Japanese diplomat and scholar who married an American Quaker and became Under Secretary of the League of Nations. He wrote this book in English in 1899 and in the preface wrote that his American wife, a Quaker from Philadelphia, had commented on the need for someone to explain Japanese culture to the West. He decided that in order to understand Japan it was necessary to understand the tradition of Bushido, the ideal code of morals and conduct of the Samurai nurtured by Oriental wisdom and religion. This was a great effort of intercultural mediation and one of the first attempts to explain Japan to the rest of the world. Throughout his life, Nitobe espoused the cause of international peace and progress, but at the same time he was a diplomat paid by the Japanese government (Kojima 2003) and the skopos of his “self-translation” included the important pretext of promoting Japan’s position in the world.

The translator, General Millán-Astray (1879-1954) founded the Spanish Foreign Legion in 1920 and was a fervent supporter of Franco before and after the Spanish Civil War. In 1936 he was the protagonist of one of the most infamous incidents leading up to the war, when he interrupted the philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno, at that time Vice Chancellor of the University of Salamanca, with the sinister cry of “Viva la muerte y muera la inteligencia” (Long live death and death to intelligence). Perhaps this battle cry can in part be explained by his peculiar interpretation of certain aspects of Zen Buddhism reflected in Nitobe’s Bushido. Certainly, the book impressed him and in 1941, when he was in charge of propaganda and censorship under Franco’s regime, he published his “own” translation into Spanish, El Bushido. El alma de Japón, addressed to the young men of Spain. The purpose of this translation as expressed in Millán-Astray’s prologue was to inspire the youth of Spain with the virtues of chivalry. However, Millán-Astray’s pretext included strengthening Franco’s regime (the armed forces and the Catholic hierarchy) and perhaps the regime’s allies in Europe and the Far East. This prologue was the basis of the Spanish Foreign Legion’s Code and until a few months ago, September 2008, could be easily accessed on the web page of the Spanish Foreign Legion, la Legión Extranjera (<http://www.lalegion.es/>). [1]

2. Context, pretext and source text

The ST used for this study is a 2001 facsimile edition by Tuttle Publishing, Boston, of Bushido: the Soul of Japan published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in New York in 1905. [2] It is a small book and the cover is divided into two sections. The upper section is in cream and in the middle there is a blue ink drawing of a Samurai on horseback, armed with a katana. The word Bushido is written above in the Latin alphabet, and to the right, followed by the author’s name, in Japanese characters. The lower part of the cover is in blue, with the The Soul of Japan and Inazo Nitobe in white letters and a subtle black ink drawing of a feudal castle and a lake in the style of the sumi-e paintings. Other paratextual elements include: the Publisher’s Foreword, the Preface to the First Edition by Nitobe himself and an Introduction by William Elliot Griffiths who had been invited to Japan in 1870 as a pioneer educator. These texts all stress the importance of intercultural understanding, as will be seen from some of the examples given below.

Nitobe’s text in English is in a sense a self-translation because he was writing about his own culture in a foreign language. Throughout the text, he posed questions about how to express Japanese cultural concepts in another language and this led him to express his ideas about the nature of translation, which were similar to those of Ortega y Gasset. This is perhaps not surprising as there are parallels between the Romantic nationalist movements that emerged in Europe and Japan in the late nineteenth century (in Japan this was in the decade following the Meiji Restoration, 1880-1890). Furthermore, Nitobe spent some years studying in Germany, as did Ortega y Gasset, and it would appear that they were both influenced by ideas linking language and national identity. Like Ortega y Gasset (1961: 445-453), Nitobe defined the impossibility of translation as a utopian necessity, but he was one of the first authors to stress the difficulties of translating between distant cultures and languages, East and West:

Bushido means literally Military-Knight-Ways- […] Having thus given its literal significance, I may be allowed henceforth to use the word in the original. The use of the original term is also advisable for this reason, that a teaching so circumscribed and unique, engendering a cast of mind and character so peculiar, so local, must wear the badge of its singularity on its face; then, some words have a national timbre so expressive of race characteristics that the best of translators can do them but scant justice, not to say positive injustice and grievance. Who can improve by translation what the German “Gemüth” signifies, or who does not feel the difference between the two words verbally so closely allied as the English gentleman and the French gentilhomme?

Nitobe 2001: 4

Nitobe was trying to explain Japanese culture [3] to the West at a time when the shared cognitive contexts were very limited. In his introduction, Nitobe wrote that this shared world had to be expanded to make understanding possible, “I found that without understanding feudalism and Bushido, the moral ideas of present day Japan are a sealed volume.” He used both foreignizing and domesticating strategies (Venuti 1995). On the one hand he maintained the Japanese terms (e.g., cha-no-yu, giri, gishi, katak-i-uchi, sakura and seppuku) and stressed the “otherness” of the culture, but on the other hand he looked for common ground and illustrations that would make the foreign more familiar to his readers. He made this clear in the introduction:

All through the discourse I have tried to illustrate whatever points I have made with parallel examples from European history and literature, believing that these will aid in bringing the subject nearer to the comprehension of foreign readers.

Nitobe 2001: xiii

Nitobe defined Bushido as an unwritten code of practice (noblesse oblige) for noble warriors (bushi). This code began to take shape in the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) and developed throughout the feudal period with the evolution of the Samurai class. It came to be regarded as a legally-binding, consuetudinary ethical code that represented the soul of Japan (Yamato Damashii). Nitobe’s Bushido covers four main topics: (1) The origins and the sources of Bushido: the Chinese roots (Taoism, Confucianism and Ch’an Buddhism – Zen in Japanese –) and the Japanese roots (Shinto, or the way of the gods); (2) The nature and teachings of Bushido; (3) The influence of this code originally intended for the Samurai class on Japanese society as a whole; (4) The relevance of Bushido for twentieth century Japan.

Nitobe drew on his wide studies in comparative philosophy, universal literature, law and comparative religion [4] to find points of encounter between traditional Japanese and Western values, questioning the Manichean division between Christians and pagans so common in the West in the nineteenth century. In the introduction, Nitobe made clear that he believed in a personal God, that all religions have a common basis and that he shared the Quakers’ rejection of violence and hierarchies:

It is with ecclesiastic methods and with the forms which obscure the teachings of Christ, and not with the teachings themselves, that I have little sympathy. I believe in the religion taught by Him and handed down to us in the New Testament, as well as the law written in the heart. Further, I believe that God hath made a testament which may be called “old” with every people and nation, – Gentile or Jew, Christian or Heathen.

Nitobe 2001: xiv

The 1905 edition of Bushido received immediate acclaim, perhaps due in part to international interest awakened by the Japanese victory over Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). It would seem from the numerous re-editions and translations of Nitobe’s Bushido that the original interest it awoke has been maintained over the years. The publisher of the 2001 facsimile edition wrote in the foreword: “This attractive little book […] has had a remarkable response since it was first published in 1905. Today its demand is as great as ever despite the ‘Westernization’ of Japan.” In the first decade of the twentieth century it had already been translated into several European languages, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. It has been called “probably the most influential book on Japan in the English language and a modern Japanese classic in translation” (Howes 1993: 3).

The continuing influence of Nitobe’s Bushido can be seen by the number of Internet pages dedicated to this subject and directed at a variety of interest groups, including pacifist organisations, groups interested in Oriental and New Age religions, martial arts and right-wing politics. [5] The 2001 edition we are using is part of a collection on martial arts. The relevance of Nitobe’s work in the international scene today was highlighted in a Symposium “Why Nitobe Now?” celebrated in Tokyo in June 2004. Organised by the United Nations University, the Nitobe Foundation of Marioka, the Japan Foundation and UNESCO, the purpose was to draw inspiration from his teachings, looking for alternative solutions to the many problems facing the international community and also to analyse the inward looking tendencies prevalent in Japan today. [6]

The influence of Bushido at the beginning of the twentieth century can be traced in many countries, for example in the political movements that led to the independence of Poland in 1918. According to Rodowicz, [7] “Nitobe perhaps saw an example in Poland of what could happen to a country once it lost its sovereignty and is subjected to foreign powers, a kind of European China.” Certainly, the Spanish General Millán-Astray, “translator” of our target text, made no secret of his admiration for Bushido[8] how the book inspired his teaching in the Infantry Academy in Toledo and later his Legionary Creed (Credo Legionario) (Nitobe 1941: 5).

3. Context, pretext and target text

The target text used for this study is the 1941 edition for which Millán-Astray was initiator, translator and responsible for the publication. The careful binding and brightly coloured cover makes it rather an unusual edition for the poverty-stricken post war years in Spain when not many books were published. His name appears in pride of place on the cover, in large oriental-style letters at the top of the page, “GENERAL MILLÁN-ASTRAY.” Underneath his name is a large, rather childish drawing of a Samurai in court dress, holding a fan in one hand and a katana in the other. Below this is, “EL BUSHIDO,” then, “EL ALMA DE JAPÓN,” and finally “por INAZO NITOBE.” The seal of approval of the censor’s office can be seen on the right hand side of the page. [9] In this case the translator is very visible as Millán-Astray’s name takes precedence over Nitobe’s and he is not identified as the translator. However, on the inside page we can read, “Traducción española del General Millán-Astray” and further down “Colaborada por Luis Álvarez Espejo.” We have not been able to clarify the translation process or the role played by Álvarez Espejo.

According to Preston (1999: 121-124), Millán-Astray’s “Bible” was a book published in 1895 by a Japanese called Inazo Nitobe and that the General was alleged to have translated from Nitobe’s original text in English. Preston questions the identity of the translator on the grounds that there was no evidence that the General knew any English or Japanese. However, Preston does not seem to have read the preamble where the General claimed to have translated from the French edition, “Traduzco el Bushido limitándome a poner en castellano la edición francesa.” [10] (Nitobe 1941: 9) Certainly, this very literal concept of translation does not coincide with the adaptations made in the TT, but the nature of these changes suggests that Millán-Astray played an active role in the translation process. He used French during his campaigns in Morocco and in 1919 he went to Algeria as part of a commission to study the French Foreign Legion. Furthermore, the emotive language of the translation coincides with that of other texts Millán-Astray wrote, as does the ornate rhetoric used in the prologue:

No os cansa más el traductor. Este saludo de proemio no es más que una cortesía en reverencia al Japón caballeroso, a Inazo Nitobè, el autor de tan bellissimo libro, y a vosotros, los que vais a leerlo, traducido a la lengua de Cervantes por vuestro servidor.

Nitobe 1941: 13

The translator will not tire you any more. This introductory greeting is nothing more than a sign of respect to the chivalrous Japanese, to Inazo Nitobe, the author of this so very beautiful book, and a greeting to you, those of you who are going to read it, translated into the language of Cervantes by your servant. (Authors’ translation)

Whatever the truth is and however much of the hard work was done by Álvarez Espejo, Millán-Astray’s hand can be seen in most of the translation decisions taken in this version of Bushido, ideological manipulations that are not in the 1909 Spanish translation or the 1927 French translation.

Millán-Astray’s ideology can be seen in paratextual and textual aspects of the translation. One of the most important differences between Bushido 1905/2001 and 1941 is the difference between the introductory texts: Nitobe’s Preface and Introduction were omitted and replaced by Millán-Astray’s Preámbulo. The translator’s pretext controlled the production of the TT to fit the propaganda purposes of the publication.

The historical context and the personality of Millán-Astray, [11] initiator and translator, are essential to understanding the 1941 translation. He was born in Galicia in 1879 and entered the Toledo Infantry Academy when he was fifteen. His first war experience was the disastrous Philippines Uprising of 1896 when the Spanish troops were humiliated. Nitobe used this defeat as an example to illustrate the importance of Bushido in Japan’s victory over China in the 1894-1895 war and that technological superiority was not enough:

It has been said that Japan won her late war with China by means of Murata guns and Krupp cannon; it has been said that the victory was the work of a modern school-system; but these are less than half-truths.

Nitobe 2001: 187-188

Nitobe went on to say that if technological superiority were sufficient, why had Louis Napoleon lost in Prussia and the Spaniards in the Philippines. This reference to the Spanish defeat obviously did not fit in with Millán-Astray’s pretext and it was also a painful, personal memory, even though he himself had received three medals for his bravery in the Philippines. The reference was omitted in the translation:

Or, if guns win battles, why did not Louis Napoleon beat the Prussians with his Mitrailleuse, or the Spaniards with their Mausers the Filipinos, whose arms were no better than the old-fashioned Remingtons?

Nitobe 2001: 188

O bien, si los cañones ganan las batallas, ¿por qué Luis Napoleón no batió a los prusianos con su ametralladora?

Nitobe 1941: 246

Millán-Astray returned from the Philippines with a reputation for bravery and married Elvira Gutiérrez de la Torre, the daughter of a General, General Gutiérrez Cámara. In 1910 he was invited to teach in the Military Academy of Toledo. However, he did not stay there long and in 1912 joined the Spanish troops in Africa, on his own request. There, he became convinced that Spain needed a mercenary army on the lines of the French Foreign Legion and eight years later he finally persuaded his superiors to give him the job of creating one. In 1920 he was appointed commander-in-chief and he asked Francisco Franco to be the second in command. [12] In his Preámbulo to his translation, he claimed that Bushido had been his inspiration, both in Toledo and later when he wrote the Legionnaires’ Creed:

En el Bushido inspiré gran parte de mis enseñanzas morales a los cadetes de infantería en el Alcázar de Toledo, cuando tuve el honor de ser maestro de ellos en los años 1911-1912, y también en el Bushido apoyé el credo de la Legión con su espirito legionario de combate y muerte, de disciplina y compañerismo, de amistad, sufrimiento y dureza, de acudir al fuego. El legionario es también samurai y practica las esencias de Bushido.

Nitobe 1941: 6

I was inspired by Bushido for much of my moral teaching to the infantry cadets in the Alcazar of Toledo, when I had the honour to be their teacher in the years 1911-1912, and I also based the creed of the Legion on Bushido, with its legionary spirit of combat and death, of discipline and brotherhood, of friendship, suffering and toughness, of readiness to face the enemy. The legionnaire is also a samurai and practises the essence of Bushido. (Authors’ literal translation)

Millán-Astray was Franco’s commanding officer in Morocco during the 1920s and he contributed to creating the Generalisimo’s legend before, during and after the Civil War. On the 4th of October 1936, just after Franco proclaimed himself the Head of State, Millán-Astray wrote that the Caudillo had been sent by God as Conductor to lead Spain to greatness (Preston 1999: 122-126). After the Civil War, Millán-Astray was made Director of the State Delegation for Press and Propaganda, which formed part of the General Secretariat of the Head of State.

4. Translation as propaganda

4.1. The Prologue

El Bushido. El alma de Japón was published as part of a propaganda campaign aimed at Spanish young people just after the Nationalist victory and in the middle of the Second World War. The intended readership was made explicit on the inside cover of the 1941 edition, “Se suplica la difusión de este libro, principalmente entre la juventud escolar,” and its educational value is made clear in Millán-Astray’s prologue:

Es interesantísimo y muy provechoso libro para las juventudes de un pueblo que después de larga época de decadencia renace y quiere ser esplendorosamente grande y libre. Es eminentemente espiritualista y desprecia el materialismo grosero y sensual.

Nitobe 1941: 7

This is a most interesting and very useful book for the youth of a people that has been reborn after a long period of decadence and wants to be splendidly great and free. It is eminently spiritual and despises gross, sensual materialism. (Authors’ literal translation)

The above quote from the prologue also gives us a clue to Millán-Astray’s main pretext, which was to reinforce Franco’s regime and to build “¡España! ¡Una, Grande y Libre!” Furthermore, although Spain did not enter the Second World War, the regime sympathised with the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis and Millán-Astray had contributed to fascist propaganda campaigns both in Italy and Spain” (Rodao 2001: 122-123). Many of the examples of manipulation in the translation can be related to the ideological pillars of the regime: First, to justify the military dictatorship and reinforce the figure of Franco, the Caudillo, the Conductor; Second, to strengthen the position of the Axis countries by favouring fascism over democracy; Third, to reinforce the Spanish version of National Catholicism and the alliance between Church and State. Finally, there are examples where the translator seems to have adapted certain concepts of Bushido, such as seppuku (the Japanese institution of ritual suicide), to his own personal view point. Before looking at a few examples in the translation, it is worth looking in a little more detail at the prologue to see the signposts Millán-Astray set up for the readers of Bushido.

The prologue includes his own summary of the book based on four categories that are not mentioned explicitly in any part of the ST. These categories illustrate the fascist, National Catholic pretext used to guide young readers: Cuatro Principios (Four Principles); Cuatro Votos (Four Vows); Cuatro Pestes (Four Plagues), Cuatro Cultos (Four Cults).

4.1.1 The Four Principles






Nitobe 1941: 8

The Four Principles of Bushido enumerated by Millán-Astray are not to be found as such in Nitobe’s Bushido, but they do recall the Four Vows of Yamamoto Tsunemono, a 17th Century Samurai who was inspired by Confucius, Zen Buddhism and Shintoism. [14]








My own vows are the following:

Never to be outdone in the Way of the Samurai.

To be of good use to the master.

To be filial to my parents.

To manifest great compassion,

and to act for the sake of Man.

Yamamoto 1981: 169

However, the Confucian and Zen influences are overshadowed by the religious and military vocabulary chosen by Millán-Astray: service is owed to “the supreme chief”; “piety” is required rather than “compassion” and “sacrifice” as opposed to acting “for the sake of man.”

4.1.2. The Four Vows


Nitobe 1941: 8

DEATH, LOYALTY, DIGNITY AND PRUDENCE (Authors’ literal translation)

The four Vows, a word with strong religious or chivalric connotations, [15] do not appear as such in the ST either. The primacy given to the “Death Vow” is clearly related to the General’s priorities [16] – the legionary had to be ready to die – rather than to Nitobe’s priorities.

4.1.3. The Four Plagues


Nitobe 1941: 8

SLOTH, GLUTTONY, LUST AND AVARICE (Authors’ literal translation)

The four Plagues listed in the preamble are not mentioned in the ST either. The use of the word “Plague” (Peste) recalls the “Plagues of Egypt,” [17] although the four plagues he warned his readers against seem to be related to the seven deadly sins of the Catholic Church (pride, avarice, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy, sloth).

4.1.4. The Four Cults

El camino de Bushido o la Vía de los Caballeros es: CULTO AL HONOR, CULTO AL VALOR, CULTO A LA CORTESÍA Y CULTO A LA PATRIA.

Nitobe 1941: 8

The path of Bushido or the Way of the Knights is: THE CULT OF HONOUR, THE CULT OF COURAGE, THE CULT OF COURTESY AND THE CULT OF THE FATHERLAND. (Authors’ literal translation)

The final claim Millán-Astray made for Bushido is that it can be summed up by four Cults (another word with religious connotations). [18] Certainly, Nitobe stressed the virtues of honour, courage and courtesy. These were not as prominent under Franco’s regime as “el culto a la Patria.”

4.2. Neutralising political references in the translation

In the Preamble we could see how Millán-Astray was preparing his young readers to follow his own pretext. However, this preparation was not considered enough to achieve the desired propaganda effects and, as we saw above in the example about the Philippines, the text was also manipulated. The technique of omission was often used, particularly in places where Nitobe had tried to explain Japanese cultural markers by referring to European characters, institutions and thought. When these references clearly offended Millán-Astray’s ideology they were censored. Therefore, a reference to “Carl Marx writing his Capital” became “another writer,” but also, in the same sentence, the statement that the Japanese feudal system was dying was omitted for pragmatic purposes.

More than a decade later, about the time that our feudalism was in the last throes of existence, Carl Marx, writing his Capital, called the attention of his readers to the peculiar advantage of studying the social and political institutions of feudalism…

Nitobe 2001: 2

Más de diez años después, otro escritor llama la atención de sus lectores sobre la peculiar ventaja que obtendrían de un estudio de las instituciones sociales y políticas del feudalismo…

Nitobe 1941: 17

When Nitobe compared the “paternal” government supported by Bushido with the “avuncular” government of the US, of Uncle Sam, the reference to the US was eliminated in the translation and “paternal” government was contrasted with “despotic” government.

Thus also, in a sense not usually assigned to the term, Bushido accepted and corroborated paternal government – paternal also as opposed to the less interested avuncular government. (Uncle Sam’s to wit!)

Nitobe 2001: 39

Así, igualmente, en un sentido que generalmente no se acostumbra da a la palabra, Bushido acogió y corroboró un gobierno paternal, así como opuesto al gobierno despótico.

Nitobe 1941: 64

Most of the references to democracy in the ST have positive connotations, but in the translation these references are either eliminated altogether or given less positive connotations. In the following example “the growth of democracy” becomes “social progress.” Furthermore, the word “mission” is used both for “calling” and “view,” which adds a more active, military meaning to the original.

Callings nobler and broader than a warrior’s claim our attention today. With an enlarged view of life, with the growth of democracy, with better knowledge of peoples and nations, … .

Nitobe 2001: 186

Misiones más nobles y más amplias que las del hombre de guerra solicitan hoy día nuestra atención. Con una misión más amplia de la vida, con el progreso social, con un mayor conocimiento de los otros pueblos o de las otras naciones …

Nitobe 1941: 244

In the next example the word “democracy” is not eliminated but the positive connotations of “democracy raises up a natural prince,” are weakened so that a back translation of the Spanish would be that “democracy puts on top a man who has been chosen.”

Democracy raises up a natural prince for its leader, and aristocracy infuses a princely spirit.

Nitobe 2001: 158

La democracia coloca arriba a un hombre escogido y lo toma como jefe, en tanto que la aristocracia infunde un espíritu noble entre el pueblo.

Nitobe 1941: 209-210

Nitobe’s metaphoric use of “the Masonic sign” is eliminated in the translation. This is probably because under Franco any “enemy” was often identified as being part of the Jewish-Masonic conspiracy, “el complot judeo-masónico.”

(National character) an element which unites the most forcible persons of every country; makes them intelligible and agreeable to each other; and is somewhat so precise that it is at once felt if an individual lack the Masonic sign.

Nitobe 2001: 169-170

(Carácter nacional) un elemento que une en cada país a las personas que están dotadas de más fuerza vital; que hace que se comprendan y simpaticen mutuamente, y que es algo tan infalible, que se reconoce si un individuo está desprovisto de este signo secreto.

Nitobe 1941: 221-222

4.3. Converting Bushido to Catholicism

As mentioned above, one of the pillars of Franco’s regime was the alliance with the Roman Catholic Church (Casanova 2001: 291-293), therefore it was essential to domesticate both Bushido and Nitobe and make them acceptable to the Spanish version of National Catholicism. Millán-Astray stressed the “Christianity” of Bushido and Nitobe in his Prologue. He insisted first of all that there was no conflict between Christian morality and Bushido and, that the latter was older than the former, “Los principios de la moral Cristiana no están en pugna, ni mucho menos con el Bushido, que es anterior a Jesucristo” (Nitobe 1941: 8). Both of these statements are questionable in the light of the ST. Nitobe dated the origins of Bushido in the 12th Century AD, when the Samurai class began to flourish during the Kamakura period. Furthermore, although Bushido supports certain universal moral values (that are not exclusively Christian), it also supports institutions that are totally opposed to Christian morality, such as seppuku (the ritual suicide a Samurai is expected to perform in order to redeem his honour) or katauchi (legitimate vengeance taken on behalf of a feudal lord). Suicide has always been condemned by the Christian Church [19] and the New Testament preaches forgiveness, for example, in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us” (KJRB, Matthew 6: 10-14). It should be noted that although these institutions do not fit the New Testament message, they did fit Millán-Astray’s own personal ideology that was closer to the Old Testament’s “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (KJRB, Exodus 21: 24). Furthermore, he admired the fact that God and the Fatherland were combined in the Japanese cult of the Emperor, the “veneración religiosa a su Emperador, que representa para ellos a Dios y la Patria” (1941: 8). This is also in contradiction with the New Testament message of separation of Church and State, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that be Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (KJRB, Luke 20: 25) and “My Kingdom is not of this world” (KJRB, John 18: 36). [20]

For Millán-Astray a Spanish legionary should be a Samurai and Japan was a shining example for Spain to follow, “un alto y deslumbrante ejemplo de camino a seguir” (Nitobe 1941: 8). Furthermore, he claimed that this would involve no conflicts for a Catholic state, because Bushido’s sublime spirit of sacrifice meant that it could not be distinguished from “our” Christian morality, “nuestra moral Cristiana!” (Nitobe 1941: 8). He assured his readers that Nitobe was a Christian, “Ha de tenerse en cuenta que Inazo Nitobe, el autor del libro que traducimos, es cristiano.” Of course, the Spanish reader is left to suppose that Nitobe was a Roman Catholic, not a Quaker who questioned all kinds of ecclesiastical hierarchies or even institutions.

4.4. Death and the General

The final facet of Millán-Astray’s ideology that might explain why Bushido became his “Bible” is related precisely to those aspects of Bushido that are in opposition to Christianity, such as seppuku. We have already referred to the 1936 incident with Unamuno in Salamanca and Millán-Astray’s “Viva la muerte y muera la inteligencia” (Long live death and death to intelligence). [21] In this debate, he was attacking intellectuals and academics such as Unamuno, but also as a fascist and a Romantic he may have responded in a primary way to the complex and profound insights from Zen Buddhism reflected in Nitobe’s Bushido. In Chapter Ten, “The education and training of a Samurai,” Nitobe stressed the importance of intuition as a way of understanding reality. Millán-Astray referred to the subordination of the intellect to the emotions, “La inteligencia misma estaba subordinada a la emoción moral. El Bushido hacia poco caso del saber en si mismo que no debía ser buscado como fin en sí, sino como medio de alcanzar la sabiduría” (Nitobe 1941: 35).

Millán-Astray’s obsession with death can be seen in many aspects of his life. He was himself fearless on the battlefield and in Morocco lost an arm in 1924 and an eye in 1926. He was proud of his mutilations and cultivated a sinister aspect with a black eye patch. His first legionnaires were recruited from the Barcelona prison and his declared goal was to inspire these ex-convicts and mercenaries with his vision of the Samurai. In the Credo Legionario, death in combat was presented as the highest honour that would cleanse any sin and infinitely preferable to living as a coward. When the legionnaires swore allegiance to the flag they promised to defend it to the last drop of their blood. One of the most popular songs of the Legion was El novio de la Muerte, a march that romanticised the desperate, solitary soldier with a tragic past, now wedded to death (<www.lalegion.es/>). According to Preston (1999: 121-124), Millán-Astray used the ideal of Bushido to dignify troops that were regarded as cannon fodder.

5. Conclusions

Little is known about the reception given to Millán-Astray’s translation of Bushido, although its influence must have been significant in the post war years, given the role he played in the Infantry Academy of Toledo, the Spanish Foreign Legion and in charge of Franco’s press, radio, propaganda and censorship. According to the Biblioteca Nacional, a second edition was published in 1943 and the web page of the Spanish Foreign Legion suggests that Millán-Astray and Bushido continue to be part of their discourse and their legend. However, we have discovered that the text of his translation continues to be read without the influence of his pretext.

In the search for other Spanish translation of Bushido, one of the most popular editions that came to light was El código del Samurai: Bushido, in the martial arts collection of Ediciones Obelisco (Barcelona/Buenos Aires), first published in 1989 with a 6th edition in 2005. No reference is made to a translator in the edition but our suspicions that the translation is Millán-Astray’s were confirmed by the publishing house.

The text is the same but the context and the paratexts are completely different from both those of the ST and the 1941 edition and this must affect the reader’s interpretation of text as discourse. These later editions of the translation have no preface, introduction or prologue. Our ST was introduced by three elements: the Publisher’s Foreword, the Preface to the First Edition by Nitobe himself and the Introduction by William Elliot Griffiths. These paratexts all stressed the importance of intercultural understanding. Our TT was introduced by Millán-Astray’s Prologue, which has already been discussed at length. However, the later editions by Ediciones Obelisco include none of these and the only written paratext is the publisher’s blurb on the back of the book. Here the reader is informed that Bushido is an ancient code of practice based on the ideas of Confucius and Mencius that was respected by the Japanese as a model of honour, morality and respectability. Further context is provided by a note on the inside of the cover page just above the information about the edition. The readers are encouraged to get in touch with the publishing house for further information about their publications, indicating which of the following areas interest them most: Astrology, Self-improvement, the Occult, Martial Arts, Spirituality and Tradition. It is likely that the translator is completely invisible for the readers of this edition and that they are quite unaware of his pretext.


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