Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Phil Gabriel's Translation of Murakami's Speech on the Meaning of Walls

The Guardian has published a translation of Murakami Haruki's speech given at the Welt Prize award ceremony. Murakami talks about the role of walls in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but also mentions the "wall-and-egg" speech he gave in Jerusalem.

Here is a short teaser:
"Sometimes it seems to me that we destroy one wall only to build another. It could be an actual wall, or an invisible wall that surrounds the mind. There are walls that tell us not to go any further from where we are, and walls that tell others not to come in. One wall finally collapses, the world looks different, and we breathe a sigh of relief, only to discover that another wall has been erected in another part of the world – a wall of ethnicity, of religion, a wall of intolerance, of fundamentalism, a wall of greed, a wall of fear. Are we unable to live without a system of walls?"

 Escape from reality … Haruki Murakami. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

You can read the whole speech here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Haruki Murakami Studies Center Set Up in Taiwan

On September 22 this year, a center for Haruki Murakami Studies 村上春樹研究センター
was established at Tamkang University in Taiwan. In Chinese it is called 淡江大學村上春樹研究中心 (Danjiang daxue Cunshang Chunshu yanjiu zhongxin), and the English name is "Center for Murakami Haruki Studies in Tamkang University." 

This is what the logo looks like:

And here is the link to the Center's website:

An article published by the Japan News on November 6 says that, "The center’s goal is not only studying Murakami’s works as literature, but also comprehensively studying the economic effects and social influence brought about by those works." The Center, headed by Professor Tseng Ch'iu-kuei 曾秋, is also planning to organize international symposia on Murakami's writing.

Here is a picture from the opening ceremony:

Motoyuki Shibata, the renowned translator of American literature, gave a lecture at the ceremony, and he can be seen in the above picture (eighth from the right).  Also shown (far left, in white) is Lai Ming-chu, the Taiwanese translator of Murakami's works.

To read the whole Japan News story, go to: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001695726.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Murakami Receives the Welt Literature Prize and Expresses Support for Hong Kong Protesters

Haruki Murakami received the Welt Literature Prize on November 8 in Berlin. In his acceptance speech, which came on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, he expressed support for the Hong Kong protesters, comparing their situation to that of Palestinians in Gaza and of  East Germans, formerly separated by the Wall.

This is not the first occasion when Murakami has spoken during an awards ceremony about political issues. When he received the Jerusalem Prize in 2009, he gave a famous speech about "the egg and the wall" (read it here), and in Barcelona, when receiving the Catalonia (or: Catalunya) International Prize in 2011, he spoke in the aftermath of the Great Tōhoku earthquake about the corporate greed and problems born from using nuclear energy in Japan. You can hear the speech here and read the English translation here.

Many newspapers have reported about the Berlin speech, including the South China Morning Post published in Hong Kong, which quoted him as follows:

A world without walls can be created “in the quiet but sustained effort to keep on singing, to keep on telling stories, stories about a better and freer world to come, without losing heart,” he said. “We can see [a world without walls] with our own eyes – we can even touch it with our own hands if we try hard. I’d like to send this message to the young people in Hong Kong who are struggling against their wall right now at this moment.”
The Japan Times also published a story about the event.  Die Welt, which awarded the prize, published a longish article describing how Murakami reminisced about the first time he came to Berlin thirty years ago and watched a performance of The Magic Flute in East Berlin. The story also mentioned a surprise appearance by Patti Smith, apparently a great Murakami fan. Unfortunately, the story failed to mention the name of his main translator, Ursula Gräfe, or the names of any of the other German translators of Murakami, although Ursula was present at the ceremony. It is as if the books have translated themselves! Let me applaud Ursula's work here. As far as I know, she has translated six of Murakami Haruki's novels, a number of stories, and the "running book." It seems that it deserved at least a brief mention... You can read an interview with Ursula here.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Reviews of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki in the American and French Press

A long review of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki appeared in the October 23 issue of the New York Review of Books.   Authored by writer and translation studies scholar Tim Parks, the review, titled, "Charms of Loneliness," begins this way: 

"In considering the life and work of Haruki Murakami it’s good to keep a sharp eye on the relationship between individual and community, on questions of inclusion and exclusion, belonging and abandonment." 
Although it cannot be called an enthusiastic review, it definitely merits the attention of all readers of this blog.  Parks criticizes dialogues for their "solemnly static tone," and dismisses similes and metaphors as being "invariably portentous." Noting that the novel offers an "intriguing core story of how an adolescent idyll went badly wrong," he characterizes Tsukuru's pilgrimage as "the story of a woefully prolonged adolescence," and ends the review with the tantalizing, and highly ironic, phrase: "There is talk of the Nobel."

You can read a longish part of the article (or the whole thing, if you are a subscriber) here.

In contrast to NYRB, The New Yorker eschewed a full review of the book, limiting itself instead to a single paragraph under "Briefly Noted."

The French translation of Tsukuru Tazaki, by Hélène Morita, came out in early September.  A review by Françoise Dargent, "Haruki Murakami, le blues de l'homme invisible" [the blues of an invisible man], came out in Le Figaro on August 28th.  It begins with the words, "Le dernier Murakami est arrrivé" [The latest Murakami has arrived]. The reviewer believes that Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki belongs to the genre of lyrical realism. 

Here is a longer fragment of the review:

Le dernier Murakami est arrivé. Au Japon, la nouvelle fut annoncée à l'aide de haut-parleurs par des libraires surexcités. S'ensuivit une ruée en magasin qui vit s'envoler les exemplaires de L'Incolore Tsukuru Tazaki et ses années de pèlerinage. Le voici qui fait étape en France, où les lecteurs ont fini par digérer les trois tomes de 1Q84. En comparaison, cet opus signe le retour du Japonais à une forme de normalité avec un seul livre. Finis les mondes parallèles, les sauts dans le temps et les créatures étranges, Tsukuru Tazaki est un homme au demeurant banal, un ingénieur de Tokyo qui vit sagement à notre époque. Il n'en changera pas tout au long du récit, s'autorisant comme seuls glissements temporels des flash-back sur son passé récent pour mettre le lecteur au parfum de ce qui le hante.

You can read the whole thing here.

Also, here is a picture of a poster advertising a play titles Nuits Blanches based on Murakami's story "Nemuri" ("Sleep," or "Sommeil" in this case), taken by my friend, Miljko, in Paris.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Haruki Murakami Wins Welt's Literaturpreis for 2014

It was announced on October 3 that Haruki Murakami will be the recipient of this year's Die Welt literary prize. The prize, established in honor of Willy Haas, who founded Die Literarische Welt in 1995, has been awarded annually since 1999 to international authors by the literary supplement of the German weekly.  Among past recipients are Philip Roth, Amos Oz, Imre Kértesz, Jeffrey Eugenides and Jonathan Franzen. Murakami will apparently travel to Berlin to accept the prize on November 7. 

Die Welt published a long article announcing the prize, in which Richard Kämmerlings talks about Murakami's biography, his writing style, and his newest novel [Tsukuru Tazaki].  He also refers to the new anthology of stories [Onna no inai otokotachi], which will be coming out in German later in October as Von Männern die keine Frauen haben -- before the English translation appears, as Kämmerlings stresses ("In der kommenden Woche erscheint im Dumont Verlag ein neuer Band mit Erzählungen von Murakami auf Deutsch, noch vor der englischen Übersetzung"). 

The article features pictures of both beautiful covers and Ursula Gräfe is listed as the translator underneath each of them, but there is not one word about her in the article. It would seem pretty obvious that it must be partly owing to her great translations that the jurors for Die Welt decided to give the prize to Haruki Murakami!

 You can find the whole article here

'Tis the Season to Bet on Nobel...

Long-time readers of this blog will no doubt remember the stir created last year by rumors that Haruki Murakami might win the Nobel Prize in Literature, which I reported on here.  With the announcement of this year's prize just days away, once again there is a fair amount of buzz about the same thing. On September 30, the Wall Street Journal published an article by Brenda Cronin, who writes that, "guessing who will win the Nobel Prize in literature is an exercise skimpy on data and heavy on gossip and guesswork. But that hasn’t stopped handicappers from making a book on the contest." UK bookmaker Ladbrokes says that the odds on Murakami are five-to-one. 

The article also includes this amusing illustration, portraying this year's frontrunners in the literary Nobel race: left to right, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Haruki Murakami, Joyce Carol Oates, Salman Rushdie and Philip Roth.

You can read the whole article here.

The Guardian -- which quotes the odds as being 4:1 -- also published a piece about Murakami's Nobel chances.  Author Alison Flood mentions Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o as the other favorite, but the rest of her list differs from the one quoted by the Wall Street Journal: it includes Belarussian journalist Svetlana Alexievich, Syrian poet Adonis, French writer Patrick Modiano, Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse, and Austrian author Peter Handke.  Only American author Philip Roth is on both lists. You can read the article here.

It would of course be exciting for us, his translators, if Haruki Murakami were to win the prize. At the same time, I feel that part of his charm is that he is the perpetual "outsider," and as a Nobel Prize winner that would cease, and he would instead become the ultimate "insider," enshrined forever in the world's literary pantheon.

You can watch the Nobel Prize announcement on Thursday, October 9 at 1 pm (CET) or 7 am (EST) here.

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: http://vintagebooksdesign.tumblr.com/post/98295389741/thestrangelibrary-harukimurakami

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: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/new-96-page-murakami-work-coming-in-december/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

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 readery.co 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: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/02/haruki-murakami-new-book-in-english-in-december-the-strange-library

Amazon.co.uk 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): http://knopfdoubleday.com/2014/09/02/knopf-to-publish-new-short-novel-by-haruki-murakami/
Harvill Secker (for the British edition): http://vintagebooksdesign.tumblr.com, 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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Totally Invisible Translator? Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki No 1 on NYT Fiction Hardcover Bestseller List

The Atlantic published a review of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Nathaniel Rich ("The Mystery of Murakami," August 14, 2014). Mr. Rich criticizes Murakami's formulaic writing, which uses the same type of main character and similar plot devices and elements (like "eastern-European composers") in every novel. He summarizes the book, commenting on its "wistful, mysterious, winsome, disturbing, seductive" tone. But later, Rich proceeds to say something astonishing that will interest any readers who have wondered about the translation process: 

And page after page, we are confronted with the riddle that is Murakami's prose. No great writer writes as many bad sentences as Murakami does. His crimes include awkward construction ("Just as he appreciated Sara’s appearance, he also enjoyed the way she dressed”); cliché addiction (from a single, paragraph-long character description: “He really hustled on the field … He wasn’t good at buckling down … He always looked people straight in the eye, spoke in a clear, strong voice, and had an amazing appetite … He was a good listener and a born leader”); and lazy repetition (“Sara gazed at his face for some time before speaking,” followed shortly by “Sara gazed at Tsukuru for a time before she spoke”). [my underline]

Next follows a fragment about dialogue in the novel being "robotic" (although "charmingly so"), illustrated with an example. 

As a translator I am left speechless upon reading this. Nowhere in the review does Rich mention the name of the translator, Philip Gabriel. That in itself is not unusual. Many reviews forget to mention the translator. But if one is to engage is such a meticulous listing of "bad sentences,""awkward construction," etc., is it not necessary to reflect on the simple fact that every word one has read was in fact Gabriel's, not Murakami's? Rich, however, seems oblivious to the fact that Gabriel was the means that made it possible for him to read Murakami at all. 

I am not saying that all the awkwardness and bad sentences Rich found in Tsukuru Tazaki are necessarily Gabriel's "fault" (there is indeed a fair amount of verbal repetition in much of Murakami's writing).  It is not as simple as that.  Translation, needless to say, is a very complicated and nuanced process: it is disappointing, not to say shocking, to read in a leading magazine a review by someone with claims to be a serious critic who, in describing a work written in a foreign language, refuses to take the translation process into account and who seems to labor under the mistaken impression that he is in fact reading the book exactly the way Murakami has written it.  

Rich does not let such technical details get in his way, and finds an explanation for Murakami's "ugly sentences." Following a comment about some passages being examples of "elegant, inventive, figurative" prose, he writes: 

How is the author of these lines capable of an atrocity like “Her smile had ratcheted up a notch”? The most charitable explanation is that in Murakami’s fiction, his ugly sentences, though often distracting, serve a strategic purpose. Like the hokey vernacular and use of brand names in Stephen King’s fiction, Murakami’s impoverished language situates us in a realm of utter banality, a simplified black-and-white world in which everything is as it appears. When, inevitably, we pass through a wormhole into an uncanny dimension of fantasy and chaos, the contrast is unnerving.

Perhaps. But without having bothered to consult the Japanese (or even consider the possible need to do so), Nathaniel Rich is surely in a poor position to make any comment on Murakami's prose at this level of detail.

It seems that I am not the only one surprised by Mr. Rich's review. In today's New York Times (31 August 2014), Jennifer Szalai refers to this review in her commentary on the fact that Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki was number one on the hardcover bestseller list the week of August 10-16.  Referring to Rich's criticism of Murakami's prose, Szalai says: "But does the trouble originate with Murakami or with his translator, in this case Philip Gabriel. Then again, is the trouble really troublesome all all?"

To read the original review, go to: http://m.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/09/the-mystery-of-murakami/375064/.  Let me know what you think!

And here - just for fun - are some comments from posted under the review. Many readers seem to share my view:

"iago" writes:
Is it possible that, as Murakami writes in Japanese, the "bad sentences" are provided by the translator (Philip Gabriel in this case)? Or are you critiquing the original Japanese as being badly constructed?

to which somebody responded:
Actually this is an idea that seemingly hasn't occurred to Mr Rich, considering the length of this article he would most likely have mentioned it otherwise. To mock Murakami's language while not realising this is quite idiotic, frankly.

Kathleen Putnam commented:
Idiotic is precisely the word. I suggest Mr. Rich might consider the problems of translation. To do so, he might read Tim Parks' various posts on the New York Review of Books' website, or (if he can read Italian) Umberto Eco's "Dire quasi la stessa cosa" [Saying Almost the Same Thing].

and the first respondent finished with:
Hehe, i seriously doubt the good Mr rich reads Japanese.

A reader using a name GIJ said:
"No great writer writes as many bad sentences as Murakami does."
Uh, maybe others disagree, but if Murakami himself is *not* writing these "bad" sentences as they are rendered in English from the original Japanese, then why credit/blame Murakami for writing them?

Friday, August 29, 2014

"My Imagination Is a Kind of Animal. So What I Do Is to Keep It Alive."

Haruki Murakami met with readers at the Guardian Book Club during the Edinburgh International Book Festival last weekend. Theguardian.com published an article about the event, including some of the Murakami's answers to readers questions. My favorite quote is the one I used for this post's title:

 “My imagination is a kind of animal. So what I do is keep it alive”

A friend of mine attended both "Murakami events" in Edinburgh. Perhaps I can entice her to write about her impressions for this blog. I will try!

To read the Guardian article go to: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/aug/24/haruki-murakami-my-lifetime-dream-is-to-be-sitting-at-the-bottom-of-a-well

A New Review, 10 Best Haruki Murakami Novels, Five Stories to Read Online, and a Murakami Quiz

The Boston Globe published a review of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki Josh Freeman. The review begins: "How does he do it? His sentences are as unfussy as Finnish furniture."  Doubtless an allusion to the Scandinavian setting for part of the novel, it is the kind of sentence Murakami himself would probably like. To read the review go to: http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2014/08/16/book-review-colorless-tsukuru-tazaki-and-his-years-pilgrimage-haruki-murakami/0RcogY8ua1YeLlxkve7hyH/story.html

Publishers Weekly published an article by well-know Murakami scholar Matthew Strecher, which includes his ranking of the ten best Murakami novels: A Wild Sheep Chase is at the top, followed by The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. To discover the rest of the list, go to: (http://publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/63604-the-10-best-haruki-murakami-books.html).
Strecher, of course, is the author of Dances With Sheep: The Quest for Identity in the Fiction of Haruki Murakami and a reader's guide to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. His newest book, The Forbidden Worlds of Murakami Haruki, has just appeared.

Openculture.com advertises the fact that five Murakami stories  [one comes from a novel] can be read online for free for a limited time and encourages fans to take advantage of the opportunity. Here are the links to the stories:
"Samsa in Love"
Town of Cats 
"U.F.O. in Kushiro"
"The Folklore of Our Times"

You can read their interesting article here: http://www.openculture.com/2014/08/read-five-stories-by-haruki-murakami-free-online.html

And finally, here is a link to another Murakami quiz:

Most questions are easy, but would you know how to answer this one?
One of contemporary literature's more athletic practitioners, Murakami has completed long-distance runs of up to what distance?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ask a Question of Haruki Murakami and You May Get an Answer Tomorrow

Readers who want to ask Haruki Murakami a question may post in on this page:
Murakami will be answering questions during Edinburgh Book Festival tomorrow.

The article says the following about the event:
"The conversation with Mullan will centre, of course, on that book [i.e. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle]. But there will also be a chance for you to participate remotely. We will reserve the last few minutes of the event for a few selected questions from you – and will bring you the answers on the Guardian Books site shortly afterwards."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NPR Reviews Tsukuru Tazaki

"It is not every author who can draw fans to to the bookstores around the globe for midnight releases" is how the NPR story on Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki starts. The review talks about"gorgeous contemplative prose" and occasional "boring descriptions."

Here is the link where you can listen to or read Meg Wolitzer's review (a little over 3 minutes):


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

More Videos, Reviews and Articles Precede Tomorrow's Release

A new video advertising Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki was posted today on YouTube by Knopf Doubleday. It calls the book a "phenomenal new novel."

This is a link to another - slightly spooky - video about the novel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Fb_0RCHp9A

The New York Times (Times Premier) has just published an article titled "The Murakami Effect" by Pamela Paul, which talks about the review by Patti Smith from last week's NYT Book Review (see the link the August 5th post) and the illustration by Yuko Shimizu accompanying the review. 
(for this link to work one needs to have access to Times Premier).

Also, Salon.com has published a review by Laura Miller.  The piece is titled: "Murakami's understated triumph: What Japan's most celebrated writer knows that American novelists don't. " Miller says that Murakami tends to write long novels ("mammoth and intricate doorstops) like 1Q84 and shorter "mood pieces" like After Dark or Sputnik Sweetheart. She includes Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki in the second group and Miller praised its "direct, neutral, unvarnished and unprettified prose style."

To read the review go to: http://www.salon.com/2014/08/06/murakamis_understated_triumph_what_japans_most_celebrated_writer_knows_that_american_novelists_dont/

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tsukuru Tazaki US Bookstore Release Parties Announced

A number of bookstores around the US will host Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki midnight release parties on Monday, August 11.  It looks like they are following the pattern of the Japanese release, which also happened at midnight.  The list of bookstores includes 4 bookstores in New York and one each in Lost Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, St. Paul, Seattle, Oxford, MS, and Wichita. The full list with links can be found at https://www.facebook.com/harukimurakamiauthor

Green Apple Books in San Francisco says that tomorrow's event will include:

"Food and beer!
A Murakami trivia contest written by Murakami scholar Matthew Strecher
Raffle for signed first editions of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki
A costume party--come dressed as your favorite Murakami character (might we suggest something like this?)
Many more surprises!"

Community Bookstore in Brooklyn will host "New Murakami Book + Karaoke + a chance to win SIGNED COPIES= MIdnight Release Party!!". There will be raffle where one can win a limited number of signed copies of the new novel, but also "beer, snack and karaoke." 

Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago during their "midnight murakami release party bash" promises: 
"A chance to score a limited edition *SIGNED* copy of COLORLESS TSUKURU 
Beverages from Dry Hop Chicago
Unique photo opportunities!
Murakami inspired music