Murakami Haruki the Translator

By Mori, Masaki | Southeast Review of Asian Studies, Annual 2014 | Go to article overview

Murakami Haruki the Translator


Mori, Masaki, Southeast Review of Asian Studies


A Major Translator

Outside of his native land, Murakami Haruki is widely recognized as the most accessible Japanese writer with his works translated into many languages. They include major novels, such as Sekai no owari to hadoboirudo wandarando [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (The End of the World and Hardboiled Wonderland, 1985), Noruwe no [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Norwegian Wood, 1987), Nejimakidori kuronikuru (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1994-1995), Umibe no Kafuka [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Kafka on the Shore, 2002), and 1Q84 (2009-2010), as well as a number of mid-sized novels and short stories. indicative of his prolificness as it is, this list actually proves partial, for his writing is far from limited to fiction. His oeuvre also includes numerous pieces of translation and nonfiction, including essays, travel journals, and interviews. Out of these two categories, the latter is at least known to English-speaking countries with the translation of Hashiru koto nitsuite kataru tokini boku no kataru koto [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, 2007), in which he details one of his real-life passions. in contrast, it is not well known in the West that he has translated a considerable amount of literary fiction, mainly by American writers, into Japanese. it is important to point out the significance that Murakami's translation carries in his overall activities as a professional writer.

The list of his translations from modern and contemporary American literature is quite extensive, including works by C. D. B. Bryan (1936-2009), Truman Capote (1924-84), Raymond Carver (193-888), Raymond Chandler (1888-1959), F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), Mikal Gilmore (b. 1951), Mark Helprin (b. 1947), John Irving (b. 1942), Ursula K. Le Guin (b. 1929), Tim O'Brien (b. 1946), Grace Paley (1922-2007), J. D. Salinger (1919-2010), Shel Silverstein (1930-99), Mark Strand (1934-2014), Paul Theroux (b. 1941), Chris Van Allsburg (b. 1949), and several others to date. There are a number of reasons for his fascination with American literature. He belongs to the first post-WWII generation that grew up under heavy influences from American culture. Three of the favorite novels of his teenage years were Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Chandler's Long Goodbye, and Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby, all of which he eventually translated into Japanese, despite the previous existence of widely accepted versions by other translators.

Fascination with American Literature

Since gaining recognition outside Japan in the 1980s, he has visited the United States on many occasions, including visiting professorships at Princeton University and Tufts University in the early 1990s, making direct contact with some of the contemporary American writers whom he highly regards. They include, for instance, O'Brien and Paley when they gave speeches at Princeton and in New York City, respectively. At Princeton, he made good friends with Mary Morris (b. 1947), though admitted feeling somewhat awed at English Department luncheons in the presence of dignitaries like Joyce Carol Oates (b. 1938) and Toni Morrison (b. 1931). ("Art of Fiction," 124). In 1984, he took an early morning jog in Central Park with Irving, who suggested it in lieu of a regular interview (2007 Hashiru koto, 239). In that same year Murakami also visited Raymond Carver at his home on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State; Murakami was an ardent admirer of Carver and translated his complete works into Japanese. (1) With Fitzgerald, such personal contact was obviously impossible, but thanks to his translation of Fitzgerald's novels and his own novels translated into English, Murakami was invited over a weekend to the home of the American writer's granddaughter in a small village near Philadelphia during his Princeton days (1994, 50-63). Apart from the fact that he highly esteems these American writers, there are several reasons for his considerable commitment to translation. …

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