Embrace

Welcome to the Seventh Annual How to Japanese Murakami Fest!

With the goal of stirring up even more interest in Murakami between now and October, when the Nobel Prizes are announced, I will post a small piece of Murakami translation/analysis/revelation once a week from now until the announcement. You can see past entries in the series here:

Year One: BoobsThe WindBaseballLederhosenEels, Monkeys, and Doves
Year Two: Hotel Lobby OystersCondomsSpinning Around and Around街・町The Town and Its Uncertain WallA Short Piece on the Elephant that Crushes Heineken Cans
Year Three: “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Words and WeirsThe LibraryOld DreamsSaying GoodbyeLastly
Year Four: More DrawersPhone CallsMetaphorsEight-year-olds, dudeUshikawaLast Line
Year Five: Jurassic SapporoGerry MulliganAll Growns UpDanceMountain Climbing
Year Six: Sex With Fat WomenCoffee With the ColonelThe LibrarianOld ManWatermelons
Year Seven: WarmthRebirthWasteland, Hard-ons, Seventeen

embrace

Chapter 21 “Bracelets, Ben Johnson, Devil,” part three. Watashi and the Girl in Pink head into the hatch in the laboratory and continue on their way to the INKling sanctuary. Watashi thinks a bit more about feeling detached from his body in the darkness. Then, in the Birnbaum translation, we have this passage:

The path wormed left and right but kept going further and further down. There were no steep inclines, only a steady, even descent. Five minutes later, we came to a large chamber. We knew this from the change in the air and the sound of our footsteps. (212)

There’s nothing in particular about the passage that stands out as strange on its own (other than the further-farther mistake?), but there is a massive cut hidden between the second and third sentences. As we’ve seen in the past few posts, Birnbaum made cuts that eliminated some of the more overtly sexual banter between the two and also Watashi’s warm reaction to a peck on the cheek. The reason for those cuts ultimately might have been because he chose to cut this scene here. The Complete Works edition followed by my translation:

道は左右に蛇のように曲がりくねり、いくつもの枝道にわかれながら、下方へ下方へと向っていた。急な坂こそないが、道は一貫して下りだった。まるで一歩一歩地表の明るい世界が私の背中からはぎとられていくような思いだった。

途中で一度だけ我々は抱きあった。彼女は突然立ちどまり、うしろを振り向き、ライトを消して私の体に両腕をまわした。そして私の唇を指先でさがし求め、そこに唇をかさねた。私も彼女の体に腕をまわし、そっと抱き寄せた。真っ暗闇の中で抱きあうというのは奇妙なものだった。たしかスタンダールが暗闇のなかで抱きあうことについて何かを書いていたはずだ、と私は思った。本のタイトルは忘れてしまった。私はそれを思いだそうとしたが、どうしても思いだせなかった。スタンダールは暗闇の中で女を抱きしめたことがあるのだろうか?もし生きてここを出ることができたなら、そしてまだ世界が終わっていなかったとしたら、そのスタンダールの本を探してみようと私は思った。

彼女の首筋からはメロンのオーデコロンの匂いはもう消えていた。そのかわりに十七歳の女の子の首筋の匂いがした。首筋の下からは私自身の匂いがした。米軍ジャケットにしみついた私の生活の臭いだ。私の作った料理や私のこぼしたコーヒーや私のかいた汗の臭いだ。そういうものがそこにしみついたまま定着してしまったのだ。地底の暗闇の中で十七歳の少女と抱きあっていると、そんな生活はもう二度と戻ることのない幻のように感じられた。それがかつて存在したことを思いだすことはできる。しかし私がそこに帰りつく情景を頭に思い浮かべることができないのだ。

私たちは長い時間じっと抱きあっていた。時間はどんどん過ぎ去っていったが、そんなことはたいした問題ではないように私には感じられた。我々は抱きあうことによって互いの恐怖をわかちあっているのだ。そして今はそれがいちばん重要なことなのだ。

やがて彼女の乳房が私の胸にしっかりと押しつけられて、彼女の唇が開き、やわらかな舌があたたかい息とともに私の口の中にもぐりこんできた。彼女の舌先が私の舌のまわりを舐め、指先が私の髪の中を探った。しかし十秒かそこらでそれは終わり、彼女は突然私の体を離れた。私はまるで一人宇宙空間にとり残された宇宙飛行士のように、底のない絶望感に襲われた。

私がライトをつけると、彼女はそこに立っていた。彼女も自分のライトをつけた。

「行きましょう」と彼女は言った。そしてくるりとうしろを向いて、前と同じ調子で歩きはじめた。私の唇にはまだ彼女の唇の感覚が残っていた。私の胸はまだ彼女の心臓の鼓動を感じることができた。

「私の、なかなかよかったでしょ?」と娘はふりかえらずに言った。

「なかなかね」と私は言った。

「でも何かが足りないのね?」

「そうだね」と私は言った。「何かが足りない」

「何が足りないのかしら?」

「わからない」と私は言った。

*

それから五分ばかり平坦な道を下ったところで、我々は広いがらんとした場所に出た。
(294-295)

The path snaked left and right, branched off on numerous occasions, and continued down, down into the ground. The grade wasn’t all that steep, but the path descended incessantly. It felt as though the bright surface world was being torn from my back step by step as we went.

Along the way we hugged just once. She stopped suddenly, turned around, turned off her light, and put her arms around me. Then she searched for my lips with her fingers and pressed her lips against them. I put my arms around her as well and gently pulled her closer. It was strange to hug her in the pitch dark. Stendhal wrote something about hugging in the dark, I thought to myself. I’d forgotten the title of the book. I tried to remember it but could not. I wonder if Stendhal ever hugged a woman in the dark. If I managed to get out of here alive, and if the world hadn’t already ended, I resolved to find the title of that Stendhal book.

The melon scent of her eau de cologne had already disappeared from the nape of her neck. In its place was the smell of a seventeen-year-old girl. And beneath her smell was my own smell. The smell of my life was ingrained in my Army surplus jacket. The food I’d made, coffee I’d spilled, and sweat I’d sweated. All of it had just fixed itself there and was ingrained. As I stood there in the darkness underground in an embrace with a seventeen-year-old girl, that life felt like an illusion I’d never return to. I could remember that it had existed once upon a time, but I couldn’t imagine myself ever returning to those circumstances.

For a long time we just stood there hugging. Time ticked away, but it didn’t feel like a serious problem to me. By embracing we were able to share how scared we were with each other, and that was most important right now.

Finally she pressed her breasts firmly against my chest, opened her lips, and slipped her soft tongue and warm breath into my mouth. The tip of her tongue flicked against my tongue, and she ran her fingers through my hair. But after ten seconds or so, she stopped and suddenly separated herself. I was overcome with the bottomless despair of an astronaut abandoned in outer space.

When I turned on my light, she was standing there. She turned on her light.

“Let’s go,” she said. She did an about face and began walking at the same pace as before. The sensation of her lips remained on my own. I could still feel her heartbeat on my chest.

“I was pretty good, wasn’t I?” she said without turning around.

“Not bad at all,” I said.

“But something was missing, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Something was missing.”

“I wonder what’s missing.”

“I don’t know,” I said.

*

After five minutes we had descended the slope and came to a large, empty room.

Makeout scene! I can’t believe this was hidden in the original version. It seems much more natural to leave the relationship completely unconsummated: It’s satisfyingly unsatisfying. Kind of tantalizing in a sexy way. It’s more satisfying to linger in the possibilities. She’s also half his age.

Not that the kiss is much of anything, and I do think it’s well written—probably better than some of Murakami’s more recent sexy writing, which has earned him the infamy of an award nomination.

This passage felt very typically Murakami. Experience and interiority overlap. Unlike the previous reaction to the peck on the cheek, Watashi is sent into his associations: by the darkness and embrace into Stendhal and by the smell into his everyday life. Then she leaves him floating in the darkness alone. The astronaut metaphor is nice.

Not much else to say about this one. Hugging and embracing both felt like pretty awkward renderings of 抱きあう, but I left it hugging for the most part.

This is probably the last official Murakami Fest post, but there will be two more posts about Chapter 21. That may seem like overkill, but there’s one more section that gets cut related to this post’s passage and another section that’s just kind of curious and has differences between the Complete Works and paperback versions.

That’s all for this year. Best of luck with the Nobel, Murakami!

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