Friday, September 26, 2014

The Release Date of The Strange Library Is Approaching

There is more and more being written about The Strange Library, as journalists eagerly expect its release in December. The Guardian offered an "exclusive preview," showing six pages of text and colorful illustrations from the British edition. A number of other sites, such as Open Culture, have reposted it.

On the CMYK page (belonging to Vintage Design), one can read what appears to be a text written by the book designer, whose name I was unable to find anywhere (if any readers know it, please write a comment below). What the illustrator has to say is really interesting; here is one passage:

The text of The Strange Library is fully illustrated throughout, with a variety of drawings, images, illustrations, and photographs; and they are taken from a wealth of printed sources; from a 1950s cookery book to Birds of the British Islands, 1907, a book on popular astronomy from 1894 to a Victorian book on Locks and keys.  The majority of the illustrations were sourced from old books I found in the London Library. Founded in the 1840’s, the library is a labyrinth crammed to the ceiling with treasures on seemingly every subject. The metal stacks date from 1890s and are a marvel of architecture, steel grille floors allowing you to see to other floors above and below. Here are housed the books in Science and Miscellaneous, our favourite sections for the sort of research we did. 
My picture researcher and I became literally lost in its corridors! There was a great sense of achievement when we pulled out a hidden gem that matched a particular line or part of Murakami’s text. I was interested in how the style of illustration plates and printing techniques evoked a certain period. My favourite was the almost fluorescent colours found in the plate section of a 1950’s German cookery book. For some pages like that of the caterpillars, I had to carefully amalgamate images from different sources. Only two illustrations had to be commissioned for the book as we just couldn’t find images for doughnuts or a ball and chain.

To read the whole thing go to:

An article about the book's release appeared in the New York Times. The author, Alexandra Alter, wrote this about the graphic aspect of the American edition:

Knopf is fleshing out “The Strange Library” with full-color art throughout in a lavish volume designed by Chip Kidd, Knopf’s associate art director. Mr. Kidd said he drew on his own collection of vintage Japanese graphics as inspiration for the design.
Here is a YouTube video in which Mr. Kidd explains how he designed the American version of 1Q84:

As far as I know, no illustrations from the American edition have been released so far except, for the cover image. 
To read the whole NYT article, go to:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Murakami's First Two Novels to be [Re]translated and [Re]published in Dutch and English

Haruki Murakami's first two novels, 「風の歌を聴け」 (Kaze no uta o like, 1979) and 「1973年のピンボール」 (1973 nen no pinbōru, 1980) were first translated into English by Alfred Birnbaum in 1987 and 1985, respectively, and published by Kodansha International for release in Japan only as Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973. 
Here are the pictures of my own well-used copies.

A new English translation by Ted Goossen is to come out next fall. The Guardian published an article about the release, which you can read here.

In fact, both novels have already appeared in translation in some other languages quite a long time ago. The Chinese translations were done by Lin Shaohua, the Taiwanese/HK version by Ming-Chu Lai, the Korean by Yun Songwon, and the Russian by Vadim Smolenskiy.

This year, my own Polish translation (below left) came out in May, and the Dutch translation by James Westerhoven is to appear in January 2015. It is already being featured on the webpage of Atlas Contact, the Dutch publisher.

In Polish, English, and Dutch the two books are being published together as one volume. Haruki Murakami wrote a foreword to the new English translation, which James Westerhoven was still able to include in the Dutch version, but it was too late for the Polish version. 

A few words about the titles. As Jay Rubin writes in Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words (31-32), the Japanese title of Kaze no uta o kike was  inspired by a line from Truman Capote's story, "Shut a Final Door": "So he pushed his face into the pillow, covered his ears with his hands, and thought: Think of nothing things, think of wind." 

The Polish title literally means "Listen to the Wind's Song" (pretty much a literal translation of the Japanese title).  James Westerhoven told me the following about the Dutch title: "it means "Listen to the Wind," because 'hear the wind sing' would mean that the wind is rising and there is probably going to be a storm."

1973 nen no pinbōru seems straightforward at first, but if you look at the two covers above carefully, you will see that the word "pinball" is not to be found on either. The Polish says "flipper" and the Dutch says "flipperen." This is because in both countries, for some reason, pinball machines are named "flipper" for the two elements at the bottom of the machine that the player uses to flip the ball away and back into action, which are called "flippers" in English.  According to James Westerhoven, the Dutch title literally means something like "Playing Pinball in 1973."

James also offered the following explanation about the Dutch book: "If you take a good look at the cover, you’ll see that the righthand cover has Luister only and the lefthand cover has Flipperen, and on the spine they have both, but both reading from opposite directions. That is because Atlas Contact are producing it as a so-called ‘upside-down’ or ‘turn-around’ book. When you’re done reading one novel, you have to close the book, turn it upside down, and begin again on page 1 for the second novel. Sounds like hell for the compositor/printer, but it’s an interesting concept."

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Array of New Translations of Tsukuru Tazaki

Darina Zaicová, the editor of the Slovak edition of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, sent me her comments about the blog [thank you!] and said that the Slovak edition is to be out in the middle of September. The book was translated by Dana Hashimoto and will be published by Slovart. On the right is an image of the Slovak cover from the publisher's page

Curtis Brown, Murakami's agent for Europe, has also posted covers of the other editions expected to come out soon. Those are the Danish, Norwegian, Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese translations. 

On the left is the cover of the Portuguese edition, which is to come out at the end of September from Casa das Letras. The translator is Maria João Lourenço, who has translated many Murakami books from English. Interestingly, the cover looks just like the German cover [below]. The editor, Marta Ramires, who kindly agreed to answer my questions, told me that they loved the German cover and thought it might work in the Portuguese market.  

On the right is the Danish cover. The book (Den Farveløse Tsukuru Tazakis Pilgrimsfærd), translated by Mette Holm, will be published by Klim on October 10.  

The Norwegian version, above, to be published by Pax, has been translated by Ika Kaminka and Magne Tørring. I wonder what they decided with the nicknames in the end? We remember from Ika's post in June that she was wondering whether to translate them, but Magne was strongly against it.  

On the left is the Brazilian Portuguese cover. According to Curtis Brown, the publisher is Editora Objetiva. The name of the translator apparently has not been released yet, but the book is to come out in November. Also, it seems that the Brazilian Portuguese title -- O Descolorido Tsukuru Tazaki e seus Anos de Peregrinação -- is different from the Portuguese title, where Tsukuru Tazaki simply became a "boy": A Peregrinação do rapaz sem cor ("The peregrinations of the boy without color")

The Bangkok Post reported that the Thai edition of Tsukuru Tazaki is coming out soon. They also gave the name of the translator: Muthita Panich (I took the liberty of reposting the cover pictures from her Facebook page). Looking for the publication date, I found at that the book is to come out on September 13, 2557! Thailand uses the solar calendar, Suriyakhati, in which years are counted in the Buddhist era, 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Strange Story of the Strange Library

Announcements have started popping up on the internet that a new book by Haruki Murakami, The Strange Library, is to appear in English on December 2. The translator is Ted Goossen. The cover photograph (left) comes from Amazon US, which describes the book thus: "A lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plot their escape from the nightmarish library of internationally acclaimed, best-selling Haruki Murakami's wild imagination."
Lindesay Irvine writes about the book for the The Guardian. After briefly summarizing the story he quotes Liz Foley, publishing director at Harvill Secker: “We are very excited to be publishing a special illustrated edition of The Strange Library as an unusual gift book for Christmas. Murakami’s imagination is unique and this is a
                                 wonderfully creepy tale that is sure to delight his fans." 

Irvine also mentions that the announcement explains the mystery of "Strange Library" cards that were handed out to people waiting in line to get into the "Murakami event" during the International Book Festival in Edinburgh last month.
The photograph, included in the article, comes from a tweet by Michael Reeve:
"Someone is handing out cards to the Murakami queue. No-one knows what they're for. 5:27 AM - 30 Aug 2014 London, United Kingdom"

It seems like a brilliant idea for creating interest in the new book!

To read the whole Guardian article, go to: posts the image of the British cover and the following description:
'All I did was go to the library to borrow some books'.
"On his way home from school, the young narrator of The Strange Library finds himself wondering how taxes were collected in the Ottoman Empire. He pops into the local library to see if it has a book on the subject. This is his first mistake. Led to a special 'reading room' in a maze under the library by a strange old man, he finds himself imprisoned with only a sheep man, who makes excellent donuts, and a girl, who can talk with her hands, for company. His mother will be worrying why he hasn't returned in time for dinner and the old man seems to have an appetite for eating small boy's brains. How will he escape?"
Here are the links to the publishers' announcements:
Knopf (for the American edition):
Harvill Secker (for the British edition):, where you can also see a picture of people lining up in Edinburgh in front of Waterstone's bookstore, where the Murakami event took place.

It is worth pointing out that in this case, as with other recent publications, the English translation is not the first to appear in a European language. Fushigi na toshokan already appeared in German last year in Ursula Gräfe's translation as Die unheimliche Bibliothek. The illustrations were done by Kat Menschik.  Here is a picture of the cover:

Other internet sites announcing the release of The Strange Library in English say that the book appeared in Japanese in 2008, giving the impression that this is a fairly recent work (see: Entertainment and Shortlist).  In fact, there is a much longer history to this novella, going back over 30 years.

The first version of the story was called Toshokan kitan [Strange Tales from a Library] and was originally published in six parts in a magazine called Torefuru in 1982 (June through November). The following year, it was included in the 1983 anthology Kangarū biyori [Perfect Day for Kangaroos].
Twenty-two years later, in 2005, Haruki Murakami revised the novella and published it under a different title Fushigi na toshokan [The Strange (Mysterious, Amazing, Wondrous) Library] as a picture book [絵本].   Three years after that, in 2008, the book was published again with a slightly different cover, beautifully illustrated by Maki Sasaki. Here are pictures of a tax collector from the Ottoman empire and of the Sheep Man.

Since it had to be transformed from a novella into a story for a picture book, Murakami revised it. The story has become shorter, the language simpler, and the original six longish chapters turned into twenty six very short ones. However, the story line is not that different.

Japanese Wikipedia gives two examples of how the language was changed in order to become appropriate for a picture book (絵本に相応しい言葉遣い), which might be read by children (or not).
1. オスマン・トルコ帝国の収税政策 ("tax collection policies of the Ottoman empire") changed into オスマントルコ帝国の税金のあつめ方 ("ways of collecting taxes in the Ottoman empire"), and 2. 禁帯出 (in-library use only) became 貸し出し禁止 (cannot be checked out).

Readers of this blog will know already that Murakami often revises his works, both short stories and novels, before they get re-issued as pocket editions or get included in Zensakuhin [Collected Works]. Some notable examples of stories that were considerably changed during revisions are Mekura yanagi to [,] nemuru onna (published in English in 2006 as Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman in Philip Gabriel's translation) or Bāto Bakarakku wa o suki? [Do You Like Burt Bacharach?, 1982] which became Mado [Window, 1991] and in Jay Rubin's translation was included in The Elephant Vanishes. Some of these changes are very small, others extensive.