Eight-year-olds, dude

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, Metaphors.

More of 1Q84 Book 2 this week. I’m not quite sure why I’m stuck in Book 2. I promise to check out Book 3 next week.

The big Murakami news of late was that a school in New Jersey decided to ban Norwegian Wood because it has naughty bits. The naughty bits were distorted by parents playing the telephone game: lesbian sex became lesbian statutory rape. This is ironic because it’s exactly what happens in the book – a thirteen-year-old girl tricks the neighbors into believing that Reiko abused her when it was actually the girl who took advantage of thirty-one-year-old Reiko. Reiko snaps from the pressure, divorces her husband, and ends up in the mental hospital with Naoko.

So this week, rather than picking a random section based on the notes I took above the pages, I sought out the naughty bits of 1Q84. The bits I found aren’t the naughtiest, I don’t think, but they do a nice job of obfuscating other important plot details, so there will be no spoiler. Book 2, page 242:

Aomame said, “You’ve raped countless young girls. Girls who were barely ten years old.”

“You’re right,” the man said. “By conventional wisdom, that’s how it would be taken. Judging by the laws of the world, I am a sinner. I had physical relations with girls who hadn’t yet reached maturity. Even though it wasn’t what I wanted.”

Aomame just sighed deeply. She didn’t know how to suppress the intense convection of emotions running through her body. Her face distorted, and her right and left hand seemed to be demanding something different entirely.

Yes, dude. Baby raping. Rereading this section reminded me exactly how weird and tedious this book can get at times. This section is getting toward the final quarter of the book. We’re seeing the encounter we’ve been waiting 750 pages to see. And now there’s a long-ass discussion of morality to draw the whole thing out and ruin any sense of movement. If you were wondering why baby raping comes into discussion at all, it seems to be an example of how there is no absolute good or evil in the world – it’s constantly shifting, and things that were good can soon become evil and vice versa. This happens to be exactly what Dostoevsky was trying to portray in The Brothers Karamazov, apparently. Conveniently, both of the characters in this scene have read the book, so they can discuss it at length.

Not that any of this will matter to some people. They’ll just hear the baby raping part and put on their lynching shoes. I’m not sure I have the interpretive abilities to stop them. I’m very curious to read the translation and see the reaction to this part of the novel.

On a side note, Aomame is constantly scrunching up her face. In this case, the Japanese is 彼女の顔が歪められ, the first clause in that last sentence. Her face is described pretty horrifically in the beginning of the book. I’m interested to see how Rubin handles this in English. I can’t say anything about her hands because that would spoiler, but I promise the last clause makes sense in the original.

6 thoughts on “Eight-year-olds, dude

  1. Man you are hard on this book! Haha I haven’t read it yet (though hopefully soon, there’s a chance I might get a review copy), so I can’t argue against you on whether the book is good or bad. But you have definitely been the harshest critic I’ve seen in my online review travels.

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