in the presence and absence of love
Momoko Ishii had translated over 60 children's books from overseas (including Winnie the Pooh and the Peter Rabbit series) and written more than 10 books of her own, in her long, but still limited life of 101 years (1907-2008). After viewing the overwhelming amount of work and passion that she had put into her lifetime achievement, I couldn't help to think what was the motivation that kept her going throughout the years?!
I've always felt that true artists and strong creators often have a sense of absence or loss within themselves, like an empty hole. They create because they want to fill that hole somehow, so that they can become "complete."
In Ishii's case, she had a happy and blissful family life as a child, surrounded by people who loved and acknowledged her existence. However, when she was in her twenties, her best friend dies of an uncurable disease which she repeatedly mentions in her essays as something that profoundly affected her. Momoko would read her translations of one of the first major works she would translate, Winnie the Pooh, to her friend in her death-bed. Her death left such a strong impression on Momoko that in her later years, she would even write a novel about their relationship.
It felt to me like all the books she would go on to translate were her letters to her long gone dear friend.
By immersing herself in the act of translating the beautiful world depicted in the books, maybe she was trying to recreate the magical times they had shard together.
But anyhow, I think it's amazing that so many very special books have been delivered to the hands and minds of numerous countless children of Japan, all from one passionate woman who understood the beauty of life that shines with all its mortality.