Thursday, July 26, 2018

Murakami’s Newest Novel Deemed “Indecent” in Hong Kong

Murakami’s newest novel, Killing Commendatore, has been classified as "Class 2” indecent material by the Hong Kong Obscene Articles Tribunal. Indecent material is defined as including “violence, depravity and repulsiveness.” The Tribunal’s decision means that Killing Commendatore was removed from the Hong Kong Book Fair last week.  It can now only be sold in bookstores if the cover is wrapped and features a notice warning about its contents, with access restricted to those over the age of 18. The same is true of libraries — no readers under 18 may borrow the book. 

The decision was made public on July 12. Since then articles have appeared in the Japanese press by people puzzled by the decision. Readers have commented that some Murakami books were “much worse” in terms of sex scenes, asking why this one should be restricted. One might also ask why the decision is coming only now, when the book came out in Taiwan in December 2017 and in China in March 2018.

Here are links to articles in Yomiuri and Nikkei. The story was also featured in yesterday’s Guardian and South China Morning Post. 

On the surface of it, this seems pretty outrageous: censoring a book in this day and age? But in fact, this is not the first time this has happened to a Murakami book. In 2011, after “multiple" complaints from parents, Norwegian Wood was taken off a reading list at a high school in New Jersey, as reported by the Guardian in this article. The sex scene between Reiko and her student was described as a “drug-fueled homosexual orgy.” 

Of course this was just one school, as opposed to a whole “Special Administrative Region,” with a population of 7.4 million. One can imagine that the decision will probably greatly help the book’s sales China and elsewhere!

 The picture above comes from the Nikkei article quoted above, apparently showing the Hong Kong censor's warning sticker on the wrapped edition of Commendatore.  Observant followers of this blog will recognize the cover as that of the Taiwan edition of the book, in Lai Ming Chu's translation. I have looked around the internet for pictures showing the sticker on the mainland translation by Lin Shaohua, but so far have not found any.  I suspect this is because the Chinese edition published in Taiwan is more widely available: it seems that most Hong Kong readers prefer Lai's to Lin's  renditions.   

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

More on Visualizing Translation

I have just finished correcting my translation of Killing Commendatore. As I was working on it, I formed certain images of different characters in my mind. Every reader does that; some seem to think of different celebrities that the characters remind them of, others create their own, original mental images. I have happened across some of those images on the internet. Here are a few examples.

The first is a collage of images from a Twitter post by Takuma Moriwaki, who visualized all the characters in the book as different Japanese celebrities, mostly actors and singers. Starting from the top left and going clockwise: the main character - the nameless painter (Ken'ichi Matsuyama), Wataru Menshiki (Kōichi Iwaki), Marie Akikawa (Nana Komatsu), Masahiko Amada (Gaku Hamada), Komichi (Mana Ashida), Yuzu (Yuriko Yoshitaka), Tomohiko Amada (Yūya Uchida), and Shōko Akikawa (Kumiko Akiyoshi).

Yūya Uchida was mentioned as a model by another blogger (, but for Menshiki (not Tomohiko Amada), which I wrote about in a post from October, 2017.

Finally, here are two images that are meant to represent Marie Akikawa, the mysterious and beautiful thirteen-year-old girl. The first image was posted by kayokotsu here, and the second was posted on Twitter on March 6, 2017 by mk19781106. These two prove once again how very differently the same character can be imagined by different readers!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Polish Cover for Volume One of Killing Commendatore Released

The cover of the Polish translation of Killing Commendatore was just released. It features paint brushes, as the main character is a painter. The literal translation of the title is "The Death of Commendatore" because I couldn't come up with a graceful way to render "koroshi" (killing) in Polish. "Zabicie" (killing) sounded awkward, so that left me with "morderstwo" (murder), which seemed too morbid, or  "zabójstwo" (manslaughter), which sounded like discussing a criminal case. So I decided to go with "death," feeling unhappy about betraying the author,  but unable to help it. 

The book will be published by Muza in October. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

New Murakami Cover by Chip Kidd Released

Knopf has released the cover for the American edition of Killing Commendatore. The designer is Chip Kidd, who has designed other Murakami hard covers.
Here is the link to an article by Lila Shapiro about the cover on  She writes: "[W]hen readers walk into a bookstore and see a freshly printed hardcover copy of one of his U.S. editions, they often find themselves inexplicably drawn in by the gravitational force of an obscure astronomical entity." According to Shapiro, this is "mostly because of Murakami's writing" but also "because of the art of Chip Kidd." The article also quotes Kidd as saying that, "I'm translating what I think he's trying to get across. ... In that sense, it's very presumptuous on my part."

The article describes how this final cover design is in fact a second design. Without having read the book (as the English translation was not yet available), Kidd had first designed a different cover (pictured below).  However, Murakami asked him to rethink the design once the English version was made available to him. This was apparently the first time in their 25-year-long working relationship that he redesigned a cover at Murakami's request.

Below on the left is the image of the first draft, which seems much more disturbing than the final draft, perhaps because it refers more literally to the "killing" in the title. Kidd himself apparently realized that it was "too lurid." So he came up with a new design for the jacket, which apparently features a hole in the middle. Under the jacket the blue of the cover "gives way to dark night." Below on the right you can see the image under the jacket.  For more details on the potential meaning of the design and the designer, you can read the article here.

The novel will be out in English translation by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen on October 9th and can already be preordered on Amazon.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Turkish Translation of Hear the Wind Sing Is Out

The Turkish translation of Murakami's first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, originally scheduled to appear in December, came out in May. The publisher is Doğan Kitap and the translator Ali Volkan Erdemir, who is currently working on the Turkish translation of Killing Commendatore. Google Translate tells me that the title means "listen to the song of the wind." 

Here is a link to a very interesting interview with the translator (you can Google Translate), who kindly mentions this blog:

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Serbian Translation of Killing Commendatore Came out on April 19

The Serbian translation of Volume I of Killing Commendatore appeared on April 19 from Geopoetika. The translator is Nataša Tomić. Nataša tells me that no specific date has been set for the release of Volume II yet.
Here is a link to the publisher's page and a brief description:


Also, the image of the British cover has been released on No sign of the American cover yet. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

"Fruit Dropped to the Ground by a Squirrel": Myanmar Translator of Killing Commendatore on Translating Through English

The Myanmar translation of Killing Commendatore came out in January. The translator's name is Ye Mya Lwin. Here is the picture of the cover and of the translator holding the book (Zon Pann/The Myanmar Times)

An article in Myanmar Times published on March 23 tells the story of the translator and of the publication of Japanese literature in Japan. Apparently, the following Murakami books are available in Burmese: Sputnik Sweetheart, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, What I talk about, when I talk about running, Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, Pinball, 1973 and South of the Border, West of the Sun.

Ye Mya Lwin has translated over 70 books from Japanese, including Soseki's Botchan, books by Kawabata, and Burmese Harp by Michio Tateyama, which apparently became widely known in Myanmar. The article explains that Ye Mya Lwin couldn't find a published for Botchan, so he financed the publication himself in 1995 by selling his wife's gold chain!

He is quoted in the article as saying: 
“Books written by Asian writers can’t be perfectly translated by translators from the West because Asian culture totally differs from that of west. ... Direct translation [from Japanese to Burmese] is like eating a fresh fruit on a tree while translating a book already translated in English is like eating a fruit dropped to the ground by a squirrel.” 
On this last point, I could not agree more with Mr Ye!

You can read the whole article here.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

English Translation of Killing Commendatore in October? Volume One in Danish already in May!

The date for the publication of the English translation of Killing Commendatore keeps changing. I posted in January that it was to appear in September 2018. Later it changed on Amazon to November. Now both,, as well as the Random House page announced a new date for the publication of the English translation of Killing Commendatore: October 9. The book can already be preordered. Looking at these temporary covers, I can't help wondering why the title is not "Killing the Commendatore."

And here are the beautiful cover designs for the two volumes of the Danish translation by Mette Holm. Volume I is to appear from KLIM on May 24, and Volume II on October 18 of this year.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Chinese Translation of Killing Commendatore Took Only 85 Days, Says Lin Shaohua, the Translator

The mainland Chinese translation of Killing Commendatore will be released on March 10 from Shanghai Translation Publishing. It is already possible to preorder the book -- and those who do will receive a free copy of a new edition of Norwegian Wood that was published in 2017 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the book's publication.

The initial print run is to be 700, 000 copies. Below is an image of the book, which, like the original Japanese version, will be published in two volumes. One wonders why the English title was put on the cover.

What makes the story of this translation amazing is the speed with which the translator, Lin Shaohua, completed the work. Lin has been translating Murakami for many years. Among his credits are Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, 1973, Dance, Dance, Dance, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, Sputnik Sweetheart, Kafka on the Shore, All God's Children Can Dance, The End of the World and Hard-Boiled Wonderland, South of the Border, West of the Sun, A Wild Sheep Chase, After Dark, along with many essays, travelogues, etc. 

In an article found in the online journal Pengpai, Lin describes how he worked on the book. Apparently he took himself out to the countryside and, working every day armed only with a stack of paper and a ballpoint pen, managed to finish translating the 1050-page book in 85 days!  While I can see how this could be done -- Lin's pace works out to about 12.5 pages per day -- in my case, life often seems to get in the way of translating and I am only in the middle of Volume Two myself.  This is a case of true dedication. Lin said that, after he was done, his brain was fine but his hand hurt (and this is another amazing part -- a translator writing in longhand!), and the editor offered to send him some Chinese medicine. The article can be found here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

German Translation of Killing Commendatore out Today!

The German translation of the first volume of Killing Commendatore, Murakami's latest novel, came out today from Dumont. It is titled Die Ermordung des Commendatore and was translated by the excellent Ursula Gräfe. Lucky German readers!

The cover is beautiful; readers who are Facebook users can see what is hidden under the dust jacket here:


Sunday, January 7, 2018

English Translation of Killing Commendatore to Come Out on September 18th

Mette Holm, the Danish translator of Murakami, who always manages to stay on top of the all the Murakami news, let me know yesterday that the publication date of the English translation of Killing Commendatore was announced on The novel will be translated by Ted Goossen and Philip Gabriel and will be published in the UK by Harvill Secker. Presumably the American version by Knopf will appear on the same day. The book can already be preordered, but no cover image is available yet.

Here is a the screenshot from The book's appearance in September was also announced on Financial Times Book Preview 2018.

While the website does not specify this, one is led to assume that, as in the past, the original multi-volume work will appear in one volume in English.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Visualizing Translation: Continued

In an earlier post I wrote about translating a chapter from Killing Commendatore, in which Boku finds an old painting in the attic. I wrote about how after reaching on the internet for different ways  people imagined the painting helped mi visualize it and write (or: translate) about it.

I went through a similar process when translating Chapter 16. In that chapter Boku, a professional portrait painter, is working on a portrait of Menshiki (whom I also tried to imagine with internet's help). The process starts from sketching Menshiki, who poses for his portrait. But later the painter continues painting from memory and allowing his subconscious to take over and for the inspiration for colors and textures to emerge from within. He describes adding thick black lines to create a "skeleton" of the portrait, and later adds white, green and orange. Gradually Menshiki's face becomes invisible but Menshiki is still present in the painting. This is perhaps a bit of a spoiler, but let me just say that Menshiki really likes the resulting portrait.

I tried to imagine what the portrait might have looked like and then remembered that the webpage where I have found different versions of Killing Commendatore painting also provided somebody's visualization of different stages of the portrait's creation. Here are the images, which you can find at:




Thursday, December 14, 2017

Taiwanese Translation of Killing Commendatore Came out on December 12

The Chinese translation of Haruki Murakami's newest book, Killing Commendatore, appeared in bookstores in Taipei on December 12, although the official publication date was December 8.  (This is the version in traditional characters; a simplified-character mainland Chinese translation by Lin Shaohua is supposedly in the works.)  The publisher is China Times, and the translator is the tireless Lai Ming Chu. Tireless, because she is, I believe, the author of the first Murakami translation into any foreign language, and because she has translated almost all of his works, including novels, shorts stories, essays, travelogues, etc.

The blue and white books on the left are the paperback versions, and the colorful ones on the right are  from the hardcover boxed set.

And here is Lai Ming Chu with her "Murakami shelf" in a bookstore in Taipei.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Dutch Translation of Volume I of Killing Commendatore Came out on December 1st!

As announced on September on this blog, the first European translation of Killing Commendatore was published by Atlas Contact on December 1st. The co-translators from Dutch are Elbrich Fennema and Luk van Haute. 

On her public Facebook page, What I think about when I translate Murakami, Fennema wrote:

"It is always a moment of magic to feel an actual, factual book in your hands, even though as a translator I know the content inside out. For months Luk and I ( co-translaters) could keep our options open, simmer over choices, make adjustments. But the text is now fixated in the form of a book. And something strange happens: in print it all of a sudden looks like it was always there. As if Killing Commendatore is an obvious concept.
Of course it wasn't always like that...
As translators we struggled with the right word in Dutch for 'Killing'. Was it murder? Manslaugher? Self defense? At times translating felt a lot like detective work: looking for clues, magnifying glass in hand. After 1000 pages, we are confident to conclude that it is definitely a case of murder..."

Volume II is to appear on January 12, Murakami's birthday. 
And now we are waiting for the German translation by Ursula Gräfe, which -- at least as far as I know -- will be next. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Bakery Attack(s) comes out in Turkish

Murakami’s “The Bakery Attack” and “The Second Bakery Attack” have been published in Turkish this month as Fırın Saldırısı with Kat Menschik’s illustrations. The publisher is Doǧan Kitap and the book was translated from Japanese by Ali Volkan Erdemir. 

This is the third Murakami book in Turkish, after Sleep (2015, tr. by Hüsseyin Can Erkin) and The Strange Library (2017, tr. by Ali Volkan Erdemir)with Kat Menschik’s illustrations. To read more about Turkish translations of Murakami see the blog post of July 29, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Visualizing Translation: Reflections on Translating Killing Commendatore

I have been working on the Polish translation of Killing Commendatore for a few months now. This time I have decided to try an experiment: instead of reading the entire book beforehand, and then starting on the translation, I am reading and translating simultaneously, sentence by sentence.  It has been an interesting experience. I have had to go back a lot and fix things, as they became clear, but this approach made it possible to translate without knowing what is coming on the next page, which has been novel and exciting. It has also merged the act of reading with the act of translating, so I am able to experience the book in a way close to a normal reader.

In the course of translating, every now and then I look up things on the Internet, wondering about how other readers have experienced the book or imagined its characters, and seeing if there is anything there that might be useful to me as I work. One of the characters I wondered about is Wataru Menshiki, a mysterious rich businessmen, whose portrait the protagonist undertakes to paint. According to the description in the book, he has regular features, a broad mouth, and completely white hair, despite being only 54.  Surfing the blogosphere, I discovered a tweet by Momoyakko, who felt that that this description of Menshiki would make him the spitting image of the famous composer, Ryūichi Sakamoto, shown here:

Another person (posting on the blog for people struggling with social interactions) first imagined Menshiki as the singer and actor Yūya Uchida, but later (maybe after having read about Menshiki's broad mouth and pointy ears), decided to draw an original portrait of Menshiki himself or herself. S/he even included a table listing all of Menshiki's characteristic features and traced the process of the portrait's creation, which I will write about in a different post.
You can see the whole post here:

image source:

The title of the novel, Killing Commendatore, comes from a painting the protagonist finds in the house he has rented.  The scene appearing in the painting -- the killing of Commendatore -- is, as I have suggested in an earlier post,  inspired by Don Giovanni, but the painting is executed in Japanese style (Nihonga) and portrays figures from the Asuka period (538-710).

Here is how one person (who does not like Murakami's writing but took part in a group reading of the novel with friends) imagined it. This person admitted that s/he didn't know what a nihonga would look like. (

Here is another blog author's rendition (

While I have found the different images of Menshiki helpful (I had also thought of Ryūichi Sakamoto), the two drawings of the painting, while fun, were not really useful in terms of helping with translation.

For those who like graphic novels, here is a rebus-like rendition of the book. The title translates as "How to understand Killing Commendatore in one minute."

Some additional thoughts on visualization: When translating a character, I often imagine a person among my relatives or friends whom the character reminds me of -- this helps me create the Polish version of the character, especially in terms of endowing him or her with certain speech habits. Doing things this way can, I believe, help make the character more real. Of course, one cannot overdo it, so the model won't recognize himself or herself in the translation.

Murakami writes about this same approach -- obviously, in terms of writing, not translating -- in Chapter 9 of a book of essays on writing, Novelist As a Vocation, where he says that he occasionally uses some features of people he knows, but doesn't usually create characters fully based on real people.  Incidentally, these essays have just appeared in my translation in Polish; the book is not available in English yet.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

First European Translations of Killing Commendatore To Appear In a Few Months

Following the incredibly fast Korean translation, European publishers are beginning to announce the publication dates of Haruki Murakami’s newest novel, Killing Commendatore.  The Dutch publisher of Murakami, Atlas Contact, announced on their page that Volume I will appear on 1 December 2017.  Volume II will be published on 12 January 2018 (Haruki Murakami’s 69th birthday). The book will be translated by Elbrich Fennema (who was one of the translators of Men Without Women) and Luk Van Haute. Here are pictures of the covers:

The German publication dates have also just been announced. Dumont, Murakami’s German publisher, will issue Volume I on 22 January, and Volume II on  16 April 2018. Ursula Gräfe is working on both volumes. Here are the covers:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Novelist as a Vocation out in Polish Next Week

Haruki Murakami's book of essays on writing, titled in Japanese Shokugyō to shite no shōsetsuka (which some refer to as "advice for young writers), is coming out in Polish next week from Muza S.A. in my translation. 

In English, I believe only one of the eleven essays, titled, "So What Shall I Write About?" has been published so far, appearing in Volume 5 of Monkey Business (2015) in a translation by Ted Goossen. 
You can read a short fragment of the essay here:
or you can buy the issue here:

On the webpage of Curtis-Brown, Murakami's European agent, it says that the US publication of the entire book is planned for 2019. 

In terms of translation into European languages, the book has already appeared in German, Italian (both of which I have announced on this blog earlier), and also in Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Czech.

The Spanish edition, translated by Fernando Cordobés and Yoko Ogihara, came out in April 2017 from Tusquets. Interestingly, the Spanish title is De qué hablo cuando hablo de scriber, or, "What I talk about when I talk about writing," which plays on the title of another book by Murakami, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running.  This in turn, of course, played on the title of a Raymond Carver story, "What We Talk about When We Talk about Love." The Catalan edition used the same trick in the title, De què parlo quan parole d'escriure, which was translated by Jordi Mas López and published by Editorial Empúries in April 2017. 

The Brazilian translation, by Eunice Suenaga, also came out in April 2017 under the title, Romancista como vocação, from Editora Objectiva/Alfaguara. The Czech version, by Tomáš Jurkovič, came out in April this year as well from Odeon, and was titled, Spisovatel jako povolání. Both titles seem to use words close to the English word "vocation" for the Japanese shokugyō.  The Swedish translation, by Yukiko Duke, will come out from Norstedts in October of this year.