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.

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