The Pool

It’s been a few weeks since the end of my Nobel series and the announcement, so I think I’m ready to start up again with my “Save the Blog!” project (which is basically the same as the Nobel project) and continue taking a close look at the translation of Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Conveniently for me, all of the Nobel series posts featured far more dramatic changes: Chapter 12 “A Map of the End of the World” has no major cuts by either Birnbaum in translation or by Murakami in the 1990. So this will be a very short post.

In Chapter 12, Boku starts to explore the Town and make a map. He reads a few dreams, asks the Librarian about the Pool, and then, despite her hesitancy, they visit the Pool.

I’ll take a close look at just one quick paragraph. Here is Birnbaum’s translation of the moment when Boku and the Librarian come to the Pool:

We continue for several minutes over the thicketed moor, guided only by the eerie call of the Pool, when suddenly a vista opens up before us. The wilderness stops and a meadow spreads flat out. The River emerges from the Gorge to the right, then widens as it flows toward where we stand. From the final bend at the edge of the meadow, the water appears to slow and back up, turning a deep sapphire blue, swelling like a snake digesting a small animal. This is the Pool.

And the original:

起伏の多い薮の中を水音に導かれるように十分ばかり進んだどころで、突然眺望が開けた。長い薮地はそこで終わり、平坦な草原が川に沿って我々の前に広がっていた。右手には川が削りとった深い谷が見えた。谷を抜けた流れは川幅を広げながら薮を抜け、そして我々の立った草原へと至っていた。草原の入口近くにある最後のカーブを曲ったところから川は急に淀みはじめ、不吉なかんじのする深い青へと色を変えながらゆっくりと進み、先の方でまるで小動物を呑みこんだ蛇のようにふくらんで、そこに巨大なたまりを作り出していた。僕は川沿いにそのたまりの方へと歩いていった。

Birnbaum compresses as always, especially when Murakami gets a little over specific with the description, but I’m most interested in the way he handles the final line. Birnbaum ends dramatically, boldly announcing “This is the Pool.” It follows the creepy snake image well. But it’s not what Murakami has in the original, which is closer to: “I walk along the river in the direction of the Pool.”

I’m not sure how to feel about translations like this. Any thoughts, readers? Is this too far? Do you think the translation benefits from Birnbaum’s work? Or would it have been just as fine, perhaps even more “toned down” and “moody,” the way that Murakami has it?

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