Friday, January 10, 2014

Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit writes about Murakami Translations

An interesting article about translations of Murakami by Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit, an eminent German scholar of Japanese literature, appeared today. The article coincides with the release of the German translation of Tsukuru Tazaki by Ursula Gräfe. Hijiya-Kirschnereit has written before about the hegemony of English translations and problems of indirect translation. In this article she comments on Tsukuru Tazaki being the second Murakami work (after 1Q84), which appears in many languages before the English translation. She wonders: "How will adaptations for local readerships in all the different translations of his books be approached when the English versions no longer serve as the master copies? Or has Murakami perhaps adapted his style of writing for a global market in a way that makes these adaptations no longer necessary?"
Piles of the German Tsukuru Tazaki (photo from

Here is a passage from the article:

Orchestrating Translations: The Case of Murakami Haruki
Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit
On January 12, 2014, Japan’s “global author,” as he has been termed, celebrates his sixty-fifth birthday. Two days earlier was chosen for the publication of Murakami Haruki’s most recent novel in German: Die Pilgerjahre des farblosen Herrn Tazaki, which has been eagerly awaited by readers and the press since October 2013, when the publication date was announced. The rest of the story is predictable: Bookstores will position their piles of copies most prominently and visibly near the entrances on the second weekend of the year, and prompt newspaper reviews and radio programs will add to the excitement of seeing another of Murakami’s works ready to be devoured within a brief time span, in spite of its length in German of 318 pages. Needless to say, an e-book version will be available simultaneously.More and more, bringing out Murakami in translation is growing into an event. These releases may not be as high-profile as, say, those for J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories, with people queuing for hours in front of large bookstores. But the fact that Murakami’s recent novels have been accompanied by well-orchestrated campaigns speaks for the particular name value of this author. Or should we describe things the other way around? Was it the smartness of launching a German fan website for 1Q84, his novel in three parts, well before the first two parts appeared in German translation in the fall of 2010, which boosted Murakami fever among his readership in a younger, more outgoing generation?

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