With the goal of stirring up even more interest in Murakami between now and mid-October, when the Nobel Prizes are announced, I will post a small piece of Murakami translation once a week from now until the announcement. You can see the other entries in this year’s series here: More Drawers, Phone Calls.
We’re looking at Book 2 again on page 336, and this time the note to myself is “world is a big model room – nice.” Let’s check it out:
Aomame slowly looked around the inside of the room again. This is like a model room, she thought. It was clean, had a sense of uniformity, and all the necessary items had been arranged. However, it was cold and lacked any individuality – it was just an imitation. Dying in a place like this probably wouldn’t be a very pleasant way to die. But even with a nicer backdrop, was there really such thing as a pleasant way to die? As she considered this, Aomame realized that the world in which we live is itself something like a giant model room in the end. We come in, take a seat, have some tea, watch the scenery outside the window, and when the time comes we say our thanks and leave. All of the furniture inside is nothing more than makeshift knock-offs. Even the moon shining through the window could be an imitation made of paper.
I can’t remember who I had this conversation with – possibly a translator friend – but I remember talking with someone about Murakami, and that person remarked that the strongest part of Murakami’s writing is his metaphors. He can write damn good metaphors. This one appealed to me when I first read it, and I still think it’s pretty good. It has that ever-present Murakami theme that reality isn’t much more than a place where we eat, live, shit, and fuck before we die. やれやれ.
The passage also refers to the “It’s Only a Paper Moon” epigraph. I can’t remember if he refers to it this specifically anywhere earlier in the novel, but the moon is important throughout the book.
One interesting language note: Murakami mentions that he wrote the book entirely in third person – his first one – but he still has lines like this: もし私がこんなところで死ぬことになるとしたら、それはあまり心愉しい死に方とは言えないだろう. (Which I rendered above as “Dying in a place like this probably wouldn’t be a very pleasant way to die.”) I’m not certain, but I feel like Murakami uses the 私 to show that this is being filtered through Aomame’s consciousness, so I guess it equates to something like free indirect speech in English? It’s first person kind of, but it’s actually third person. The goal is to make it feel like that initial “she thought” (彼女は思った) covers the entire paragraph, which is why I translated it as Aomame might think it to herself in English rather than using the “If I” that you might normally use. Anyone have thoughts on this?
I was also curious about tense. It jumps to present in the “As she considered this” sentence. Does that seem to work?
One last note – papier-mâché is はりぼて in Japanese. The Google Images search makes this pretty clear. The word gets used twice in the passage above. The first usage is just はりぼて, but the second is 紙で作られたはりぼて, which would seem redundant unless there’s another meaning for the word, and Yahoo Dictionary notes the other meaning is metaphorical, so I went with “imitation.”