Saturday, July 11, 2015

"I very often feel I’m writing original—almost original—fiction" Says Jay Rubin About Translation

An interview with Jay Rubin by Nikkitha Bakshani recently appeared in the online literary magazine, The Rumpus. As regular readers of this blog will know, Rubin is a scholar of Japanese literature and one of the best-known American translators of Murakami; what some of you may not know is that he is also the author of a new novel, The Sun Gods. 

In the interview, occasioned by the publication of his novel, he explains how he became interested in Japanese and discusses his views of translation as "writing original -- almost original -- fiction."

Picture from

I'm pasting the first question and Jay's answer to whet your appetites and hoping that The Rumpus will forgive me.

The Rumpus: What drew you to studying Japanese language and literature?
Jay Rubin: In my second year at the University of Chicago, I assumed I was going to be either an English or a Philosophy major, and I had about one free quarter where I thought, “Why don’t I do something non-Western, as this could be my last chance?” It just so happened that there was an Introduction to Japanese Literature course available in that quarter.
The professor would bring in not just the English translations that we were reading, but also the originals. He would read from the original and give literal translations. He gave the class a strong impression that as much as we were enjoying these translations, we’d enjoy them far more in the original.
I decided right there and then I was going to study Japanese. At the time, I was selling ice cream from a truck. I remember having my Japanese books with me, and on break, I would practice writing characters on banana skins.
To read the whole interview, go to:

Here is also a link to Jay Rubin's recent review of Juliet Winters Carpenter and Mari Yoshihara's translation of Mizumura Minae's The Fall of Language in the Age of English. 

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