Murakami Haruki

26 Jan 2005

Murakami Haruki (or Haruki Murakami to most of the Western world) is one of my favorite authors. His novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is probably my favorite book. I was introduced to his works in college Japanese class when we read the short story 「」.

Micah is also a big fan of Murakami. He recently brought to my attention that the new novel Kafka on the Shore has been translated into Chinese and been for sale already for some time. Hardcore fan that he is, Micah read it in Chinese. The English translation is now out.

The difference in publication dates made me wonder why. Was it a quality issue? Does Murakami value his English-reading audience more than his Chinese-reading audience? Or maybe it’s because Murakami can actually read the English version? I’m not sure if authors approve translations in cases like that. I’m a little curious about all this.

This rash of Murakami links came about when I checked out what Murakami-tagged bookmarks people have in del.icio.us. In a weird coincidence, I also found a short story by Murakami called Tony Takitani involving Shanghai (briefly).

Finally, if all this has interested you in the least, you may be interested in my own contribution to the Murakami links: a Chinese wiki of Murakami’s works. Titles are given as published in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan, which yields some interesting differences if you dig that sort of thing.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. Yeah, Murakami is great! Loved “The Wind Up Bird.” Norwegian Wood was really popular among Chinese students 3 or 4 years ago. That’s how I first heard of him. He writes a lot of stories for The New Yorker. I think you can read them online.

  2. Thanks for the link to Tony Takitani — I read the story in the New Yorker when it was first published, but I don’t think I saved the issue; now, in conversations with other friends who are into his work, all I can say is “yeah, one of my favorite stories of his is this one that was in the New Yorker two years ago but I don’t know where to find it now.”

    It seems that there’s a movie made from the story… With luck it’ll make it over here someday.

  3. Hi John,

    Just wondering…

    Do you know if its possible to get translations of contemporary Chinese novels anywhere in China? Whenever I go to the bookstore, it’s always the English novels, and then some translated Chinese novels usually the latest being from the 40s or 50s.

    I’d appreciate your advice.

    -Benjamin

  4. John,

    how’s your japanese reading ability? are you able to read his works in the original language? (other than that short story)?

  5. Benjamin,

    Sorry, I can’t help you there. All I ever see is translations of Journey to the West and Dreams of Red Chambers, and the occasional Lu Xun collected works translation.

    I’d ask zhwj. That seems more up his alley.
    http://litserial.blogchina.com/

  6. JR,

    Yes, I can read Murakami in the original, but I’ve definitely gotten rusty. We used to read Natsume Souseki and Shiga Naoya and the like in class, so Murakami is quite a bit easier than them. I think I could still get through Murakami without too much trouble if I had a dictionary at my side, but I’m really lazy about studying Japanese these days.

  7. Actually, I’d suggest that the best place to ask would probably be on the Chinese Forums (http://www.chinese-forums.com/), where lots of people are available to suggest titles.

    FLEP issued a series of modern authors (mostly 20s to 40s) in facing page translations. When I’ve traveled, stopping in various bookstores has turned up other short story collections, mostly from the 70s and 80s, next to reprints of Lin Yutang’s novels and Hu Shi’s lectures (both originally in English anyway). But it seems mostly random – there’s nothing that you can really count on finding, especially not the well-known contemporary works that are probably angling for more expensive international deals.

  8. In my experience, Chinese translations into English generally suck, and that includes most of the Foreign Languages Press catalog. There are exceptions — “Three Kingdoms,” as translated by Moss Roberts, and “The Outlaws of the Marsh” as translated by Sidney Shapiro, are pretty good, but you should stay away at all costs from any classical novels translated by Gladys Yang and Yang Xianyi. Their versions of Lu Xun are fine, if inelegant; their version of “A Dream of Red Mansions” is dead-ass garbage. You’d be much better-off getting the 5-volume version by David Hawkes and John Minford, translated in Penguin Paperback as “The Story of the Stone.” Their translation is my gold standard for literary translation; it can stand on its own merits as a fine work of literature.

    As for modern stuff, you’re more limited. Howard Goldblatt has translated a good number of Mo Yan’s novels, but I find his translations stilted and lifeless. Yu Hua and Han Shaogong have fared somewhat better in translation (in “To Love” and “Chronicles of a Blood Merchant” and “A Dictionary of Maqiao” respectively).

  9. http://www.livejournal.com/community/tonyleung_cw/2199.html#cutid1

    Thanks for the link. that’s my fave murakami short, hundred percent woman in case you’ve never read it or would like to read it again. My fave is wild sheep chase.

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