Back Issues

Welcome to the Eighth 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
Year Eight: Pigeon, Edits, Magazines, Awkwardness

I dedicated a previous Murakami Fest to excerpts from “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” (see “Year Three” above), the 1980 story that Murakami later rewrote for Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Murakami discusses the story at length in the 自作を語る for Hard-boiled Wonderland. Despite claiming that he viewed his previous stories “as documents that hold meaning as a sort of fixed-point observation,” Murakami declined to include “The Town” in the Complete Works, which he explains here:

書き始めた時点では、小説の構成については非常に漠然としたイメージしかなかった。しばらく前に『文学界』のために書いた『街とその不確かな壁』という中編小説(あるいは長い短編小説)を膨らませてリライトしようということだけは決まっていたのだが、それをどういう方向に書き直していくかということになると、全く方針が立たなかった。僕はこの『街とその不確かな壁』という小説を『1973年のピンボール』のあとで書いたのだが、このテーマでものを書くのはやはりまだ時期尚早だった。それだけのものを書く能力がまだ僕には備わっていなかったのだ。そのことは書き終えた時点で自分でもわかった。僕は自分がやってしまったことについてはあまり後悔している。発表するべきではなかったんじゃないかと思う。でも考えようによっては、活字にしてしまったなればこそ、なんとかこれを書き直して少しでもまともなものにしたいという思いも強くなったのかもしれない。もし『街とその不確かな壁』をあの時点で活字にしなかったら、『世界の終わりとハードボイルド・ワンダラーンド』は今あるものとは全然違ったかたちのものになっていたかもしれない。今回この全集刊行にあたって『街とその不確かな壁』を全集に収録してほしいという要望が出版社側からなされたのだが、僕としてはそうしたくなかった。たとえそれが志のある失敗作であるにせよ(そうであることを筆者は願っている)、失敗作は失敗作であり、それを改めて衆目に曝したいとは思わない。どうしても読みたいという読者は図書館で『文学界』のバックナンバーをみつけて読んでいただきたいと思う。(V-VI)

I had only a very faint image of the structure of the novel at the point when I started writing. I had only decided to rewrite and expand “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall,” a novella (or maybe a long short story) that I wrote for Bungakukai a little while before, but when it came to the direction I would take in rewriting, I had developed no plan. I wrote the story “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” after Pinball, 1973, but it was too soon for me to write on those themes. I wasn’t yet equipped with the abilities to write so much. This I knew myself immediately after I finished writing it. I was disappointed with what I myself had done. I think I probably shouldn’t have published it. But in a different light, my desire to somehow rewrite it and make it into something more respectable might have gotten stronger precisely because I put it into print. If I hadn’t put “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” into print at that time, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World might have become an entirely different book from what it is now. For the publication of this Complete Works, my publisher requested that I include “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall”, but I did not want to. Even if it was a failed work that had intention (and the writer hoped that it did), a failed work is a failed work, and I did not want it to be exposed to public scrutiny once again. I would ask that readers who must read it please find the back issue of Bungakukai in the library and read it there.

I’ve read the story, and it’s not great, but it’s not terrible either. It feels disjointed, and it doesn’t really wrap up neatly, but there is some magic there at the End of the World. I’m surprised Murakami is so self-conscious about it.

It’s at least worth a trip to the National Diet Library for Murakami treasure hunters, and if you’re internet savvy, you can have them copy it out and send it to you (at a Japanese address)…which is what I did when I accidentally left my heavily annotated copy on a bus on the way back to Tokyo from Fukushima. Rest in piece, my original copy. The fresh copy I had sent from the NDL is nice, but I wish I still had my vocab notes.

This is the final post in Murakami Fest this year! The announcements begin next week, and as usual the Literature date has not yet been set.

面白い

I shared my most recent Japan Times article on the Facebook group Translators (Japanese<->English) because someone had mentioned the Green Goddess a month or so ago, and strangely enough Jim Breen himself responded! I’m fairly chuffed about this comment:

Breen

So now when you look up 面白い there’s a third listing that includes the definition “pleasant; enjoyable; agreeable; fun.” I can’t seem to find an archived version, so I’m not sure exactly how much it’s changed. Can’t seem to find a way to link a specific definition either, so here’s the JDIC top page.

So, yeah, that was cool.

Awkwardness

Welcome to the Eighth 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
Year Eight: Pigeon, Edits, Magazines

The next volume in the Complete Works includes all of the short stories in Slow Boat to China and Firefly, Barn Burning, and Other Stories. Murakami wrote the stories in the former collection after Pinball, 1973, so I guess this post goes chronologically before the last Murakami Fest post.

Murakami writes in 自作を語る that the experience of rereading the stories for the first time in 10 years was very nostalgic for him. He then writes extensively about the revision process. It’s pretty interesting to read:

今回全集にあたって、いくつかの短編にはかなり大幅に手を入れることにした。これは今の時点で読み返してみて気になる部分が多々あったからである。僕は原則的に一度発表した作品にはそれ以上手を加えないことにしている。何故ならそれをやり始めるときりがないし、また作品というものはたとえいささかの欠点があったとしても(あるいは作家がそれを気に入らないと思ったとしても)、定点観測的な意味を持つひとつの資料として、オリジナルのかたちのものはやはりきちんと残しておくべきだと考えているからである。しかし今回は全集という形での出版であり、単行本のオリジナル・ヴァージョンとは違うもうひとつ別の選択肢を提供できるまたとない機会であったので、思い切って改訂を加えることにした。大幅に手を加えたものもあれば、字句表現の修正程度にとどまったものもあった。改訂については読者にもいろいろと異論があるかもしれない。しかし作者としては、当時表現しようと志して、十全には表現しきれなかった事柄を幾分なりとも明確にすることを基本的な方針として改訂を加えた。つまり今の時点から過去の自分自身に手を貸すということである。しかしもちろんいくばくかの問題があっても、ここはもう余計な口だしはせずに放っておいた方がよかろうと思えるところも多々あった。妙に手を加えてすっきりさせるよりは、不透明なままの思いを伝えた方が良いかもしれないということだ。若書きというのは結局そういうことである。下手にしか、不透明にしか伝えられないこともけっこう沢山あるのだ。

ただし、ここはこうしておけばよかったなと今になって後悔する部分もあって、これは書きなおした。余計な部分は削り、足りない部分は肉づけした。

そのような補修工事のあとで思うのだが、僕という人間、つまり村上春樹という作家のおおかたの像は、この作品集に既に提出されている。たしかにそれ以降、僕も僕なりに歳をかさねてより多面的に物を見て、文章を書けるようにはなった。自分がやりたいこともより明瞭に見えるようになった。作家としての自分のの力が今の段階でどの程度のものなのかということもだんだん把握できるようになってきた。しかし僕の世界というもののありようは未完成なりに、ぎこちないなりに、バランスが悪いなりに、この処女短編集におおむね提示されているように思える。スタイルなり、モチーフなり、語法なり、そういうものの原型はここに一応出揃っていると言っていいのではないかと思う。(II-IV)

For the Complete Works, I corrected a number of stories quite heavily. This is because there were a lot of areas that concerned me as I reread them at this point in time. In principle, once my works have been presented, I don’t alter them at all: Once you start with something like that, there’s no end to the changes, and even if there are slight defects in a work (and the writer doesn’t like those), I believe the original should really be left as it was, as a document that holds meaning as a sort of fixed-point observation. However, publication in the form of a Complete Works was a unique opportunity to provide a separate option different from the original hardcover version, so I decided to go ahead and add the revisions. Some I altered heavily, and others were limited to fixing up certain wordings. Readers might feel differently about these revisions. However, as a writer, my basic objective when revising was to make what I was trying but unable to fully express at that time somewhat more precise. In other words, the present me is lending a hand to my past self. However, there were of course a number of places where despite some problems I felt it was best to leave things as they were and not to interfere. Strangely, it might be best to express some ideas obscurely, just as they are, rather than making them more neat. In the end, that’s the kind of thing that early works are. There are a lot of things that can only be communicated in a poor, obscure way.

However, there were also places where I was disappointed I hadn’t put things in a certain way, and these I rewrote. I got rid of unnecessary sections and fattened up those that were lacking.

After undergoing this repair work, I’ve come to think that I as a human, in other words the majority of the figure of Murakami Haruki the writer, has already been exhibited in this story collection. I’ve definitely seen things from a more multifaceted point of view by growing older in my own way and being able to write about that. I’m more clearly able to see what I want to do. I’m also gradually beginning to grasp what my ability as a writer is at this point in time. However, I feel like my world was, for the most part, presented in all its incompleteness, awkwardness, and imbalance in this virgin collection of stories. It’s safe to say that the basic pattern of things like my style, motifs, and language all appear, more or less. (II-IV)

Very nicely put. Later in the pamphlet, Murakami goes on to note that one of the stories he did not revise was “Firefly,” which formed the basis for Norwegian Wood.

Green Goddess

greengoddess

I’m in The Japan Times today with an article about the wonderful Green Goddess dictionary: “When translation gets tough, bow to the ‘Green Goddess’

If you have the cash, I think it would probably be best to buy a digital version or the 2003 5th Edition, but if you’re a poboy like I was back in 2005 when I picked up my copy, then the 1974 4th Edition is available used on Amazon Japan for extremely reasonable prices.

When I wrote the article, the GG was going for 243 yen plus shipping. As I write this post, there are copies available for 1 yen (with 257 yen for shipping). At that price, it’s worth picking up one just to be a completionist. (Sadly the cheapest one that will ship to the U.S. is quite pricey at over 9,000 yen, so don’t ask me how to get it abroad. Shipping is generally very fast in Japan, so perhaps you could have it shipped to a hotel the next time you visit Japan.)

I mention a couple of times the GG helped me out with a recent translation contest in the article, but just for fun I’ll pick an appropriate entry and compare it with the WWWJDIC and Eijirō offerings.

After a couple of missed starts, I found an entry that I think shows the strengths of the GG: 情け.

nasake

It starts by listing the meanings of the word and provides Japanese definitions of those meanings to reinforce the different possibilities.

It then goes on to list common usages divided up by grammatical usage. It feels very organized (obvs.) compared to the Eijirō version. And the jisho.org definition is so sparse.

Yes, it’s hefty, but it’s very helpful. Highly recommended.

Magazines

Welcome to the Eighth 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
Year Eight: Pigeon, Edits

gunzo

The 自作を語る for A Wild Sheep Chase is interesting. Murakami goes into detail about how drastically he changed his life after publishing his second novel: he moved to Chiba, started taking trips abroad, stopped drinking as much, and basically stopped living the urban social life he’d been living as the owner of a jazz pub.

He wrote the book from the fall of one year to the spring of the next, a pattern that he repeated for Dance Dance Dance. He went to Hokkaido to research sheep, without any real idea of the novel in mind, and he started writing and eventually the sheep fit in to the story. He also mentions how he was driven to write by a sense of competition with Ryū Murakami following the publication of Coin Locker Babies.

One of the things I didn’t know (or had forgotten) was that the novel was published in Gunzō. Murakami writes about that experience:

この作品は『群像』に一挙掲載のかたちで発表されたが、書いている途中で担当編集者が交代し、また編集部の方針も大きく変化したこともあって、作品はやっと出来あがったものの、作品の立場も僕の立場も正直言って—もうずいぶん昔のことだし、状況も変わったから正直に言っていいと思うのだけれど—あまり居心地がいいとは言えなかったように記憶している。なんだか出来の悪い醜い子供を産んでしまったあひるのお母さんみたいな気分だった。もちろん雑誌には雑誌のきちんとした性格なり方針なりがあるのは当然のことで、僕としてはそのこと自体はいっこうに構わないのだが、でもその時、雑誌といういれものは短編やエッセイはともかくとして、息の長い仕事をするには適していないのかもしれないという印象を持った。長編小説を書くというのは本当にデリケートな作業である。それは往々にして骨を削るような孤独な集中力を要求する。そしてちょっとした些細なことで力のバランスが狂ってしまいかねないのだ。

そのせいもあってこれ以降長編小説には全部書きおろしというシステムを取るようになった。まあ人にはいろいろな事情や仕事のやり方があるだろうけれど、経験的に言って、僕の場合は性格的に書きおろし形式が適していると思う。他の仕事は一切はずして、何ヶ月か集中して一気に書き上げ、それからゆっくり時間をかけて推敲するという書き方なので、連載小説というのはどうしてもできないし、かといって雑誌一挙掲載というのも何か二度手間みたいな気もする。そういう自分にいちばん適した書き方のペースを摑んだのもこの小説をとおしてだった。 (VI-VII)

This work was presented in Gunzō in its entirety, but the editor in charge changed while I was writing, and the editorial department’s objectives also underwent large changes, so while I finally managed to finish the novel, I do remember that its position as well as my own could not be called all that comfortable, to put it honestly—this happened long ago and the situation has changed, so I think it’s okay to put it honestly. I felt something like a mother duck who’d given birth to an ugly, misbegotten duckling. Of course it’s only natural that a magazine have its own proper, magazine-like character and objective, and I didn’t have any problem with those things themselves, but I was left with the impression that, at that time, setting aside short fiction and essays, magazines as a vehicle might not have been suited for sustained work. Writing a full-length novel is truly delicate work. It often demands a focus so lonely that it wears you down. And the slightest thing can throw off the balance of your powers entirely.

This is among the reasons I adopted the system of writing all my novels after this one as kaki-oroshi (new work published straight into book form). Well, I guess people must have various circumstances and ways of working, but speaking from experience, I believe that the form of kaki-oroshi suits me personality-wise. My writing process is to let go of all other work entirely, focus for several months and write everything up in one go, then take my time with revisions, so I’m totally unable to do serialized fiction, but having said that, I do want to have another go at publishing something in its entirety in a magazine. It was through this novel that I also came to understand this writing pace that most suits me. (VI-VII)

I wonder what it was about the new editor(s) and his/her/their new goals that irked him so much. It sounds like they wanted him to make changes to the work that he was uncomfortable with. I wonder if he was submitting excerpts and receiving feedback as he wrote. (He mentions that he wrote 650 Japanese manuscript pages, which was long for him at the time but nothing compared to his recent monstrosities.)

One final interesting thing to note is that Murakami would break this vow just a few years after writing this commentary. In October 1992, he began to serialize the first half of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle in Shinchō. This went until August 1993. The first and second half were then published in book form in April 1994.

Edits

Welcome to the Eighth 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
Year Eight: Pigeon

The Complete Works combines Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 into a single volume, much like the recent new translation of both novels, and Murakami spends most of his time in 自作を語る discussing the first novel. He has a few interesting things to say about Pinball, notably that the incorporation of a “search” was useful for him in terms of plot structure (something the first book didn’t have much of). It’s something he’s gone back to a number of times.

He also says that he didn’t make any changes to these first two novels:

そしてこれが夜中に台所のテーブルで書きあげられた最後の長編小説となった。このあと僕は生活をがらりと変えて、フルタイムの専業作家としてやっていくことになる。そういう意味で、僕はこの最初のふたつの小説に僕なりの深い個人的愛着を持っている。この二冊の本には様々な思い出がしみついている。楽しいこともあったし、あまり思いだしたくないこともある。この全体に収録するにあたって、多くの短編は多少なりとも加筆しているわけだが、この二作についてはまったく筆を入れなかった。入れ始めるときりがないだろうと思ったせいもあるが、あえて入れたくないという気持ちの方が強かった。先にも書いたように、このふたつの作品はある種の不完全さと表裏一体となって成立していると思うからである。読者のみなさんにはあるいは御不満もあるかもしれない。でも理解していただきたい。これが僕だったのだし、結局のところどこまでいってもこれが僕なのだ。

(Pinball, 1973) was also the final full-length novel I wrote at night on my kitchen table. Shortly after, I completely changed my lifestyle and made a go of it as a dedicated full-time writer. In that sense, I have my own personal deep sense of attachment to these first two novels. All sorts of memories are ingrained in these two books. There were fun things as well as things I don’t really want to remember. In the process of putting together this Complete Works, I made minor revisions to most of the short stories, but I didn’t lay a finger on either of these two. Partly I felt like if I did start to change them, there would’ve been no end to the revisions, but I also felt very strongly that I shouldn’t dare change anything. This is because, as I mentioned previously, these two works came into being with a certain incompleteness and became tightly linked. As readers, you may be somewhat dissatisfied, but please understand: This was me, and no matter how far I go, it still is me. (VIII)

I’m still reading through the new translation of Pinball, 1973, and I don’t actually have paperback copies of either novel (which generally have the original text), so I can’t confirm whether Murakami’s claim is true or not, but I have finished comparing the two translations of Hear the Wind Sing. While there don’t seem to be any line by line changes, there is at least one somewhat major adjustment.

The new translation ends with Chapter 40, which feels much like a postscript because Murakami spends the short chapter discussing the fictional writer Derek Hartfield (or “Heartfield” in the Birnbaum edition). Birnbaum’s translation, however, has an additional postscript which is labeled as such and is not numbered. Here is what may be the original ending:

Heartfield, Again
(In lieu of a postscript)

If I hadn’t encounter the writer Derek Heartfield, I probably wouldn’t be writing novels. While it’s not for me to say, I surely would have taken up a completely different path from my present one.

When I was in high school, I bought up a number of Heartfield paperbacks that some merchant marine had left in a Kobe secondhand bookstore. Fifty yen apiece they were. If the place hadn’t been a bookstore, I’d hardly have thought them books, they looked so strange. The garish covers were all but torn off, the pulp pages discolored to orange. The books had probably logged on some cargo ship or cruiser along with this common crewman, then rode his bunk across time and the Pacific to wind up on my desk.

* * *

Some years later, I went over to America. A short trip just to visit Heartfield’s grave. Thomas McClure, the enthusiastic (and only) Heartfield scholar, had written me the location. “It’s a small grave,” the letter read, “the size of a high-heel point. Be careful not to miss it.”

From New York I caught a casket of a Greyhound bus and arrived in that tiny Ohio town at seven in the morning. I was the only passenger to get off there. The graveyard lay across a field on the edge of town. A graveyard bigger than the town itself. Overhead the skylarks were singing as they traced circles in the sky.

It look one solid hour to find Heartfield’s grave. I made an offering of some dusty primroses I picked in the surrounding fields, put my hands together in prayer, crouched down, and had a cigarette. There, under the even May sun, life and death both seemed equally cheap. I stretched out face up and closed my eyes, just listening to the skylarks for hours and hours.

The beginnings of this novel are there. Exactly where it has all led, even I have no idea. But as Heartfield would say, “Compared to the complexity of the universe, this world of our is like the brain of a worm.”

I only wish it were so.

* * *

In closing, I’d like to thank the aforementioned Thomas McClure for letting me quote several passages from his magnum opus, The legend of the Sterile Stars (1968), for the sections on Heartfield.

May 1979

(129-130)

It feels like Murakami overwrote his ending, and maybe he realized that when he put together the Complete Works. Perhaps this doesn’t really count as a revision—Murakami isn’t tinkering here but rather just drawing back the tape so that it doesn’t include that last little bit. I wish I had a 文庫本 copy to check the original text. Any readers have one handy?

Pigeon

It’s that time of year again. Time for me to build up my hopes and dreams for Murakami to win the Nobel Prize for Literature only to have them dashed by some Norwegian guy.

I don’t actually get my hopes up anymore—I feel like I have a more objective view of Murakami’s work now, so I see why there’s just as good a chance that he never wins—but I am a sucker for tradition. So on that note…

Welcome to the Eighth 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

passenger

This year I’m too short on time to continue my Hard-boiled Wonderland project for the whole month (I’ve gotten mired in an awfully long chapter which I will hopefully complete at some point), so I thought I would take a look at material from the 自作を語る pamphlets that Murakami included with his Complete Works. He used these to provide commentary on his writing process. Jay Rubin has used a number of excerpts in his book, and Murakami has rewritten many of those stories over and over, such as the baseball origin.

Recently Murakami told this story again as an introduction for the new, official translations of his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973. This intro has been published in The Telegraph in full.

I read it without really noticing anything until a friend said to me, “Aren’t passenger pigeons extinct?” Yet Murakami claims to have encountered a passenger pigeon on the day he learned he was a finalist for the writing competition that he eventually won. I went looking for this passage in the Japanese. Obviously this isn’t identical to the one in The Telegraph; it’s a different version, one Murakami wrote 25 years ago for the Complete Works, but he’s writing about the same moment. Let’s take a look:

『風の歌を聴け』が最終選考に残ったと『群像』編集部のMさんから知らされた日のことをよく覚えている。それは春の始めの日曜日の朝のことだった。僕はもう三十になっていた。その頃には新人賞に応募したことさえすっかり忘れていたので(原稿を送ったのは秋だった)、電話がかかってきて、最終選考に残りました、と言われたとき、仰天してしまった。それからとても嬉しくなった。僕は作家になってからいろんな喜びを体験したけれど、あれほど嬉しかったことは一度もない。新人賞そのものを取ったときですらあれほど嬉しくはなかった。その電話を切ってから女房とふたりで外に散歩に出た。そして千駄ヶ谷小学校の前で、羽に傷を負って飛べなくなった鳩をみつけた。僕はその鳩を両手に抱いたまま、原宿まで歩いて、表参道の交番に届けた。その間ずっと鳩は僕の手の中でどきどきと震えていた。その微かな生命のしるしと、温かみを僕は今でも手のひらに鮮やかに思いだすことができる。それはぼんやりとした暖かな春の朝だった。貴重な生命の匂いがあたりに満ちていた。たぶん新人賞を取ることになるだろうな、と僕は思った。何の根拠もない予感として。

そして実際に僕は償を取った。

I remember really well the day that M-san from the Gunzō editorial department called to say that Hear the Wind Sing made it to the finalists. It was a Sunday morning in early spring. I had already turned 30. At that point I had completely forgotten that I submitted to the contest (I sent the manuscript in the fall), so when the phone rang and they said, you made it to the finalists, I was shocked. Then incredibly happy. I’ve experienced all different sorts of joy since becoming a writer, but never have I been as happy as that. I wasn’t even as happy as that when I actually won the New Writer’s contest. After getting off the phone, I went out for a walk with my wife. We found a pigeon with an injured wing that couldn’t fly in front of Sendagaya Elementary School. I walked to Harajuku with the pigeon in my hands and brought it to the police box in Omotesando. It shivered nervously in my hands the whole time. Even now I can vividly remember that faint sign of life and its warmth in the palms of my hands. It was a vaguely warm spring morning. The area was filled with the smell of precious life. I thought to myself, maybe you’ll win the New Writer’s prize. A sort of premonition without any basis.

And then I actually won the prize.

As you can see from the Japanese, he uses 鳩. Passenger pigeon is リョコウバト or 旅行鳩. Makes me curious to see what word the original Japanese for the piece from The Telegraph uses. I wonder whether the editors at The Telegraph lodged any complaints or even noticed (or whether the translator, Ted Goossen, did). I imagine that the Japanese editions may get rereleased in Japan, maybe even in a combined text, along with this intro essay, so we might be able to check at some point.

Other than that the story is almost identical. Murakami is not as emphatic about how “bright and clear” the day was in this version, although I’m not sure if I’ve rendered ぼんやりとした correctly. Is it modifying the kind of heat on the day?

Next week I’ll try to take something from the Pinball, 1973 section, and I’ll continue on through his works all this month. Check back next week!