Friday, September 25, 2015

How to Translate Dialect

In the newest anthology of short stories by Haruki Murakami, there is a story titled "Yesterday." It tells of two friends.  One, originally from Kansai, moves to Tokyo to go to a university there and within a few weeks starts speaking like somebody born and raised in Tokyo. His friend, Kitaru, born and raised in Tokyo, speaks in Osaka dialect, and a pretty rough version of it (kanari diipu na) at that. It turns out that Kitaru is an avid fan of the Hanshin Tigers, a Kansai baseball team and that he had studied and learned the dialect not to feel out of place when he went to games and, surrounded by fans from Osaka, wanted to join them in cheering on his favorite team.

The fact that he speaks the Osaka dialect is an important part of the story and has an alienating effect. Kitaru is rather short, small-boned, and has noble features, so when he opens his mouth the contrast is really striking. I wasn't sure how to handle this in translation.

The usual wisdom in translation studies is to not even try translating a dialect, because one ends up localizing it in the wrong place and the effect can be comical.

Edward Seidensticker referred to this issue in remarks he made years ago about his translation of Sasameyuki (The Makioka Sisters):

"I did try to differentiate between Tokyo speech and Osaka speech. I think it was not a good solution. I rendered Osaka speech in a formal kind of English, without contractions, without any "don'ts" and "wasn'ts," and to emphasize the contrast I introduced more contractions than necessary in Tokyo speech. Someone from Osaka -- it was quite a while after the translation came out -- told me I should have done just the opposite. He said that Osaka speech is a speech of abbreviation and Tokyo speech is not. That had not occurred to me, but it is true. In standard Tokyo speech, all of the markers, the the-ni-o-ha, the postpositions, are there. They may be only vestigially there, but they are there in a Tokyo sentence. A lot of them are left out in an Osaka sentence. Therefore I should have had the exaggerated contractions in the Osaka part. But the experiment was a complete and utter failure for the simple reason that nobody even noticed what I have done." (Cited in Donald Richie, Words, Ideas, and Ambiguities:  Four Perspectives on Translating, pp. 76-77.)

Having read the above, I felt a little disheartened not knowing what to do about translating Kitaru.

Let's look at the first conversation between the two male students appearing in the story:

It is clear from the very first words that Kitaru "sounds different." This is how this conversation was rendered by Philip Gabriel:
“Kitaru is an unusual last name,” I said one day.
“Yeah, for sure,” Kitaru replied in his heavy Kansai accent.
“The Lotte baseball team had a pitcher with the same name.”
“The two of us aren’t related. Not so common a name, though, so who knows? Maybe there’s a connection somewhere.” ("Yesterday," The New Yorker, June 9, 2014)

From this short fragment, it seems that Gabriel did what Edward Seidensticker wished he had done: put more contractions in the Osaka speech. I did not have that option in Polish, since Polish doesn't really use contractions. I briefly considered making up a dialect, but did not feel equal to it. After a lot of hesitation and looking at some other translations, I decided to try an experiment, which I will describe in the following post.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Norwegian Translation of the First Two Murakami Novels

I have neglected to announce the appearance this year of the Norwegian translation of Kaze no uta o kike and 1973 nen no pinbōru. The translator was Yngve Johan Larsen and the publisher is Pax. Here is a picture of the cover along with a photo of the translator, who seems to be relatively new to the Norwegian translations of Murakami (a list of other works and translators can be found here).

I notice that, as in Polish and Dutch, the word for pinball (or pinball machine) seems to come from the word "flipper."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Follow-Up Explanation About the New Essay Collection

James Westerhoven, the Dutch translator, confirms that apart from the six essays published in Monkey, one essay (#12,  『物語があるところ・河合隼雄先生の思い出』) was published in the 2013 Summer issue of Kangaeru Hito. The remaining five essays are brand new.

James also send me the following information, which might be helpful to translators who will be working on Kaze no uta o kike and 1973 nen no pinbōru:

"Murakami’s foreword to Listen/Pinball is an abbreviated and revised version of the second essay, 「小説家になった頃」.  “The contents are essentially the same, but in the foreword Murakami drops a few paragraphs. In the book he adds a few names for the benefit of Japanese readers, changes the name of a Hiroshima Carp player from Sotokoba to Takahashi (Satoshi) and doesn’t mention the title Pinball 1973 anywhere, but essentially the essay in the book is the same as the foreword, only a couple of pages longer.”

Thank you, James!

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Murakami Essay Collection Published Today

A collection of essays by Murakami Haruki titled Shokugyō to shite no shōsetsuka (A Novelist by Profession) hit the bookstores today under an arrangement aimed to combat the growing online sales figures by vendors like and to bring customers back to large and small neighborhood bookstores.

Kinokuniya, the large bookstore chain, apparently has bought 90,000 copies of the 100,000-copy first print run of the collection.  They plan to sell about half the books in their bookstores and distribute the rest to other bookstores, leaving few to be sold online. Kinokuniya is taking a risk, since under the current agreement it will not be able to return unsold copies to the publisher. However, given that the author is Murakami Haruki, they are probably not too concerned about possible losses.

You can read more about this story on the Japan Times page (in English) here or on the Mainichi Shinbun page here, or watch a video (in Japanese) here or here.

Some essays in the collection have been previously published in Shibata Motoyuki's literary magazine, Monkey, but the book also includes "150 pages" of new material. Here is the table of contents copied from the page of the publisher, Switch.


第一回 小説家は寛容な人種なのか
第二回 小説家になった頃
第三回 文学賞について
第四回 オリジナリティーについて
第五回 さて、何を書けばいいのか?
第六回 時間を味方につける──長編小説を書くこと
第七回 どこまでも個人的でフィジカルな営み
第八回 学校について
第九回 どんな人物を登場させようか?
第十回 誰のために書くのか?
第十一回 海外へ出て行く。新しいフロンティア
第十二回 物語があるところ・河合隼雄先生の思い出

I have just looked through my issues of Monkey and found the first six essays, which would mean that the remaining six are new, unless I am mistaken.

On the publisher's page, we also we find the following promise:





Which in free translation means:
"It contains all the topics that Haruki Murakami, the unique, universally loved writer, thinks about. This long-awaited essay collection, full of autobiographical episodes, has finally been published!"

As it is a book of essays, and not a novel, this collection will probably not cause a translation-rights-buying frenzy, but I am sure it will be published in many languages.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

More Translations of Men Without Women

Three new translations of Onna no inai otokotachi, Murakami's last year's short story anthology, will be coming out in the next few months. The first one, the Danish translation by Mette Holm will be published next week by Klim. Notice the beautiful golden bug on the cover! The reason for the bug is that the Danish version (as well as the two described above)  will include the story "Koi suru Zamuza" ("Samsa in Love"), which can be read as a a sequel to Kafka's The Metamophosis. (You can read it on The New Yorker page here.) 

The story was not included in the Japanese anthology Onna no inai otokotachi, but was written by Murakami for his book of translations of short stories about love, titled Koishikute (2013).

My Polish translation will be published by Muza in October. The cover design follows Muza's established design for the Murakami series, with the author's name written vertically, but seems to also play on the motif of the Japanese flag. I understand that Muza is considering redesigning the whole series though. 

The third translation that will appear soon will be James Westerhoven's translation into Dutch. The translation is being done in collaboration with Elbrich Fennema and will be published in February 2016 by Atlas Contact. James explained to me that the book will also be available in a limited deluxe edition at the cost of 100 euros. He also kindly translated the text announcing this edition on the publisher's page:
‘Limited, numbered deluxe edition. The seven stories of Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women as seven individual booklets in one slipcase, in a very special design. Each booklet has its own cover, created especially for this edition by internationally acclaimed designers and artists such as Joost Swarte, Floor Rieder, and Pieter Van Eenoge.’
The cost will be 100 euros. 

There are a few passages and words in this anthology that have created some difficulties for me and some of the fellow translators. I will discuss them on this blog in the coming weeks.