Saturday, July 20, 2013

What Gets Lost in Translation: Struggling with "Suddenly"

Blue Suddenly, Mira Schor drawing,

Anna Zielinska-Elliott writes:

As I am working on the translation of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, I am reminded of what Edward Seidensticker wrote once in an essay titled, On trying to translate Japanese (in J. Biguenet and R. Schulte, eds., The Craft of Translation [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989]):

         I have spoken of oh's and ah's and blubbering. They bring us to the
         essential fact that Japanese is a very wordy language. Let anyone
         who does not think so try reading one of the bracket-school
         translations: he will find innumerable drones wandering free. "Now
         that is a fact" at the end of every sentence is one example; the
         remarkable number of adverbs, the nearest English equivalent to
         which is "suddenly," but which actually do not mean anything at
         all, is another. (152)

While there are no "oh's" and "ah's" in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, I am finding myself struggling with how to translate the many different suddenly's.  Unlike Edward Seidensticker, I am not suggesting that they don't mean anything, but simply that compared to Polish, Japanese has a lot of words meaning "suddenly." This means that many nuances of different "suddenly's," unexpectedly's" or "abruptly's" must get lost when translated.  It must have been the case in all the books I have translated before, but for some reason I have only fully realized it now. Checking one of the online dictionaries,, after putting in "suddenly" we get this impressive list:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dutch Translation of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki to Appear in January 2014

Atlas Contact has announced the upcoming publication of the Dutch translation of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. The book is being translated by Jacques Westerhoven and is to appear on January 12, 2014 to coincide with the author's 65th birthday.

De kleurloze Tsukuru Tazaki en zijn pelgrimsjaren 

Haruki Murakami

De kleurloze Tsukuru Tazaki en zijn pelgrimsjaren - Haruki Murakami
€ 19,95Niet beschikbaar

  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9789025442071
  • januari 2014

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Visualizing Translation #2

In the last chapter of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, Tsukuru sits waiting at platform 9/10 at Shinjuku station and observes an E257 express train bound for Matsumoto getting ready to depart. In the previous post, we included an artist's rendering of the scene, but the train in the picture was not right: it was an old local train, not an express.  If you have been following this blog, you would have noticed a post of June 10th, which included a picture of the train described in the book. This time we thought we would post a short clip of the train's departure taken in the evening at platform 9/10 in Shinjuku.  Perhaps this will allow readers (and other translators?) to visualize the scene better.

In the next clip, we can see the tail lights of the train disappearing in the distance, as they do in the novel. This is an important image, as it appears in the very last sentence of the novel.

For train enthusiasts, there are many more videos of the same train:

Friday, July 5, 2013

More Visualizing...

This is an artist's rendering of Tazaki Tsukuru sitting at Shinjuku Station (?) and looking at trains, which happens to be one his favorite things to do. However, there are some issues with the accuracy of the depiction, which we will address in the next post.

A 2007 Interview with the Korean translator of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.

Here is an old (but interesting) interview with Yang Ŏk-Kwan, the translator of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. (Readers who don't read Korean can use our handy Translate widget.) 

수담 즐기는 일본문학 전문 번역가 양억관

흑백의 뚜렷한 상징, 그 안에 모든 게 있죠

쌍꺼풀진 두 눈이 부리부리하다. 부드럽게 접히는 눈매의 주름이 아니라면 조금쯤 무섭게 느껴질까. 그렇진 않을 것 같다. 가수 케니 로저스가 면도를 하면 저렇게 되지 않을까 싶은 하얀 잔디 같은 구레나룻과 수염, 부드럽게 각진 턱을 가진 큰 바위 얼굴이다(어린시절 교과서에서 본 큰 바위 얼굴은 좋은 사람이었다).

사실, 처음 그를 봤을 때 조금 놀랐다. 내가 잘 아는 누군가를 몹시 닮았다는 생각 때문이었는데 실은, 내가 잘 아는 누군가가 아니고 직접 대면한 적은 없지만 워낙 유명한, 나도 좋아하는 만화가를 닮은 것이었다. 일본문학 전문번역가 양억관 씨. 그는 어디를 가나 똑 같은 하나의 질문과 하나의 감탄을 듣는다.

반갑습니다. 이현세 씨 맞죠?

아닌데요. 전 양억관이라고 합니다.

아이고, 죄송합니다. 근데 이야, 정말 많이 닮으셨네요.

, 네···.

To read the whole interview go to:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki released in Korean 4 days ago! (how did we miss it...?)

The Korean translation of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki was published on July 1.  As far as we know, it is the first translation of the novel into a foreign language. 

Claire Lee from Korea Herald writes (without mentioning the name of the translator, but we believe it is Yang Ŏk-Kwan) :

Murakami’s latest novel tops bestseller lists on day of its Korean release

The Korean edition of famed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s latest novel “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” topped the local bestseller lists on the day of its release Monday. 
The book was released on Monday morning and instantly topped the local bestseller lists of major online bookstores, including Yes24, Kyobo Book Centre and Aladdin. According to Yes24, some 3,500 copies had been preordered since June 24.

Kyobo Book Centre’s Gwanghwamun branch, on the other hand, was the first bookstore to sell the Korean edition of the novel at noon on Monday.

“We have sold about 4,850 copies so far,” said Jin Young-kyun from Kyobo Book Centre at 2 p.m. on Monday. “This number includes the online preorders, which were about 3,000, as well as some 1,000 copies of Japanese editions. It seems like some local readers decided to purchase the Japanese editions earlier as they didn’t want to wait for the Korean edition’s release.”

The book’s Korean publisher Minumsa reportedly competed fiercely with the nation’s top publishing houses, including Munhagdongne Publishing Group and Gimmyoung Publishers, to secure the rights to publish the Korean edition of the novel.

Minumsa declined to disclose how much it paid for the rights, but it has been reported by the local media outlets that the Korean publishing house paid at least 150 million yen ($1.5 million).

Minumsa said among the 200,000 copies it has printed, 180,000 had been pre-ordered by local bookstores prior to the official release date, July 1. The publishing house is printing an additional 50,000 copies, Minumsa said. 

To read the whole story go to:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Visualizing Translation: What Does Ao (Blue?) Look Like?

Anna Zielinska-Eliott who is currently working on the Polish translation writes:

When translating we often try to visualize people and places the author describes.  Having an image in one's mind can somehow help find the right words.  Or at least it helps me.  Yesterday, I talked on Skype to my Japanese friend, K. I asked her a few questions about Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, since K. has just started reading the book. I wanted to know what exactly does a dosshiri shita nose look like.  This is how the nose of  Ao (Blue?) is described on page 9.  My friend said that when reading about Ao, she imagined him looking like Atsushi Ōyagi, a famous Japanese rugby player, who later became a sports commentator, a TV personality and an educator.  So I looked again at the description of Ao in the book: Ao also is  rugby player, has broad shoulders, a massive chest, a wide forehead, a big mouth and a dosshiri shita nose.  He is a very enthusiastic player, who knows how to get the team pumped.  He always plays aggressively and often gets hurt.  

This is what Atsushi Ōyagi looks like now, and what he looked like as a young man. In his mid-thirties Ao is a Lexus salesman.  Can you imagine the man in the picture below as a luxury car salesman? Of course, Ao would have been much younger, since Atsushi Ōyagi is now 52, but still the contrast between a former rugby player and a Lexus salesman in a nice suit (but still with short hair) seems to work in these two pictures the same way as it does in the book.

Next I asked K. about the size of iwa (rock, crag) in a description of a "mental landscape" on page 41, where we read" "Mawari o mimawasu kagiri, arabureta iwa darake no tochi datta." I wanted to know how big the iwa were in her mind, when reading this sentence. Was it a "rocky" place? Or were there big boulders? K. said: "Oh, it sounds like Onioshidashi." Onioshidashi is a nature park in Gunma prefecture. (鬼押出し園). Here is what it looks like:
Granted, these are K.'s images, but since I didn't have any clear ones in my own head, I am going to go with hers for now.