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!

Confusion

After an extended break for ten days of travel through Bavaria and Bohemia (it was excellent; see Twitter/Instagram for details), I’m back at Hard-boiled Wonderland. In Chapter 24 “Shadow Grounds,” Boku visits the Gatekeeper and then has a catch-up with his shadow.

Most of the translation changes in this chapter feel relatively standard for Birnbaum’s style, but they are still evident even from the first few sentences. Here is the official translation:

Three days of clear weather have come to an end. I know it as soon as I awaken. I open my eyes with no discomfort.

The sun is stripped of light and warmth, the sky is cloaked in heavy clouds. (242)

Here is the Japanese with my translation following:

三日間つづいた見事な晴天は、その日の朝目を覚ますともう終わっていた。空は暗い色をしたぶ厚い雲に一部の隙もなく覆いつくされ、そこをとおり抜けやっと地上にたどりづくことのできた太陽の光はその本来の暖かみと輝きのあらかたを奪いとられていた。(354)

Three days of perfect weather are over when I wake up. The sky is covered with a thick, faultless layer of darkly colored clouds, and the light that manages to make its way through that covering has been robbed of most of its original warmth and brightness.

As you can see, the official translation is much more minimal than the original Japanese, yet Birnbaum (or his editor) adds a few details to help re-establish the scene (Boku and his eyes) in the End of the World. Maybe this is for the best after the lengthy Hard-boiled Wonderland chapters. I immediately looked at the paperback version of the book to see whether Murakami might have cut the sentences from the Complete Works edition, but the two are the same.

I did spot one cut by Murakami later in the chapter. Boku and his shadow sit under an elm tree, kicking their heels in the frozen ground. The shadow draws a circle in the ground to represent the perfection of the Town in the End of the World. They discuss plans for escape and the difficulties of living in the End of the World:

“My confidence is going, it’s true,” I say, dropping my eyes to the circle on the ground. “How can I be strong when I do not know my own mind? I am lost.”

“That’s not true,” corrects my shadow. “You are not lost. It’s just that your own thoughts are being kept from you, or hidden away. But the mind is strong. It survives, even without thought. Even with everything taken away, it holds a seed—your self. You must believe in your own powers.”

“I will try,” I say. (248-249)

And here is the original paperback version:

「たしかに僕は混乱している」と僕は地面に描かれた円に目を落としながら言った。「君の言うとおりだ。どちらに進んでいいのかを見定めることもできない。自分がかつてどういう人間であったのかということもだ。自己を見失った心というものがはたしてどれだけの力を持てるものなんだろう。それもこれほど強い力と価値基準を持った街の中でだ。冬がやってきて以来僕は自分の心に対して少しずつ自信を失いつづけているんだ」

「いや、それは違うね」と影は言った。「君は自己を見失ってはいない。ただ記憶が巧妙に隠されているだけだ。だから君は混乱することになるんだ。しかし君は決して間違っちゃいない。たとえ記憶が失われたとしても、心はそのあるがままの方向に進んでいくものなんだ。心というものはそれ自体が行動原理を持っている。それがすなわち自己さ。自分の力を信じるんだ。そうしないと君は外部の力にひっぱられてわけのわからない場所につれていかれることになる。」

「努力してみるよ」と僕は言った。(67)

“I definitely feel confused,” I say as I lower my eyes to the circle drawn in the ground. “It is as you say. I’m unsure of where I should be heading. Or of what kind of person I was in the past. How strong can a mind without a self actually be in the end? Especially in a town with such power and strong standards of value. Ever since winter arrived, I just keep losing confidence in my mind little by little.”

“No, you’re wrong,” my shadow says. “You haven’t lost your self. They’ve just hidden your memories. Which is why you feel confused. However, you’re not totally off. Even if you lose your memories, your mind will continue on in its original direction. A mind has inherent principles of movement. And that is, in other words, your self. Believe in your own strength. If you don’t, you’ll be thrown off course by powers outside of yourself.”

“I’ll try,” I say.

As you can see, it’s still quite different from Birnbaum’s translation. Lengthier, to be sure, but Birnbaum keeps many of the elements from the paperback. In the Collected Works edition, Murakami edits the shadow’s response:

「いや、それは違うね」と影は言った。「君は自己を見失ってはいない。ただ記憶が巧妙に隠されているだけだ。だから君は混乱することになるんだ。しかし君は決して間違っちゃいない。自分の力を信じるんだ。そうしないと君は外部の力にひっぱられてわけのわからない場所につれていかれることになる。」(363)

“No, you’re wrong,” my shadow says. “You haven’t lost your self. They’ve just hidden your memories. Which is why you feel confused. However, you’re not totally off. Believe in your own strength. If you don’t, you’ll be thrown off course by powers outside of yourself.”

Gone is the section about the mind and its “principles of movement.” It’s an interesting idea, but perhaps felt a little unwieldy when Murakami looked it over again? That’s the only thought I have now.

As I mentioned at the top, no major adjustment changes, but now that I’ve written this post, the English version does seem more intrusive than I initially thought. The compressions illustrated in the passages above are uniform throughout the chapter. But I guess this isn’t a big surprise: This is how Murakami was initially translated, and it’s not like the final product is a disaster. On the contrary, it’s pretty strong. Just a translation, innit?

In terms of language notes, I struggled with 間違っちゃいない and eventually resorted to help on Facebook after doing some googling and still not being totally sure about the meaning. The word is a contraction, of course, for 間違ってはいない, and I think it gave me fits because it seems to contradict with the 違う at the beginning of the passage. There is also a kind of “set phrase” feel/tone to the word and certain circumstances in which it gets used. As a native speaker Facebook friend noted, it means “you’re not (entirely) wrong (either)”

Now it’s on to the next 30-page Hard-boiled Wonderland behemoth. I’ll try to get through it quickly.

A Questionable Cut

When I first read Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, I preferred the odd-numbered chapters with the data agent. I visited a few colleges that summer as I was reading it, and because of the book I was convinced I wanted to study cognitive neuroscience. Obviously I was a moron. What I really wanted was to live in the world of the data agent. Back then the End of the World chapters were speed bumps. I’m a slow reader, but I tore through those chapters to get on with the longer, more convoluted parts about memory, INKlings, and the chubby girl in pink.

Now it feels like the opposite, most likely because I’m reading in Japanese. It takes me forever to read through the odd-numbered chapters only to reveal another short episode in the End of the World, which I really savor. Also I’ve realized the End of the World chapters are much stronger. They’re lean compared to Murakami’s normal style, but just as tense and suspenseful and even more mysterious. It’s almost like a totally different author wrote them.

Chapter 23 “Holes, Leeches, Tower” is another massive speed bump chapter in the data agent Watashi’s world, and Birnbaum really pares down the Japanese throughout, rendering only the absolute necessities to get Murakami’s point across. It feels like he’s only writing three sentences for every five in Japanese. It’s a generous translation, though, and very funny.

Watashi and the Girl in Pink spend the chapter running through the underground area more, this time away from a tidal wave of water, and then climbing a massive altar. As in previous chapters, Watashi wants nothing to do with his circumstances, so he ends up daydreaming quite a bit. Birnbaum does a fantastic job of bringing out this element.

Most of these changes are not worth looking at closely, but Murakami does make one cut between the original and the Collected Works edition. Birnbaum, however, includes the cut section in the English translation. So this should show us something about Murakami’s work as an editor. Here’s the passage in Birnbaum’s version:

The next thing I realized was that my body was missing from the waist down. I reassessed the situation. My lower half was there, just unable to feel anything. I shut my eyes and concentrated. Trying to resurrect sensations below the belt reminded me of trying to get an erection. The effort of forcing energy into a vacuum.

So here I was, thinking about my friendly librarian with the gastric dilation and the whole bedroom fiasco. That’s where everything began going wrong, it now struck me. Still, getting a penis to erect itself is not the sole purpose of life. That much I understood when I read Stendhal’s Charterhouse of Parma years ago.

My lower half seemed to be stuck in some halfway strait. Or cantilevered out over empty space or…dangling off the edge of the rock slab. It was only my upper half that prevented me from falling. That’s why my hands were clinging to the rope so desperately. (232)

It’s clear that Birnbaum’s translation is clearly pretty slim without even looking at the original, but here it is with my re-translation:

私の下半身はもうなくなっているのかもしれない、と思った。地面に投げ出されたショックでちょうど傷口のあたりから私の体はふたつにちぎれ、下半身がどこかに吹きとんでしまったのだ。私の脚―と私は思った―私の爪先、私の腹、私のペニス、私の睾丸、私の……、しかしどう考えてもそれは不自然だった。下半身を全部失くしていたとしたら、私の感じる痛みはこの程度で済むわけがないのだ。

私はもっと冷静に状況を確認するべく試みることにした。私の下半身はちゃんと存在するのだ。それはただ何かを感じることのできない状況下にあるだけなのだ。私はしっかりと目を閉じて波のようにあとからあとから押し寄せてくる頭の痛みをやりすごし、神経を下半身に集中した。存在しないかのように感じられる下半身に神経を集中しようとする努力は、なんだか勃起しないペニスを勃起させようとする努力に似ているような気がした。それは何もない空間に力を押しこめているようなものなのだ。

私はそうしながら図書館で働いている髪の長い胃拡張の女の子のことを考えていた。やれやれ、なんだって私は彼女とベッドに入ったときにうまく勃起することができなかったのだろう、と私はまた思った。あのあたりからすべての調子が狂いはじめたのだ。しかしいつまでもそんなことを考えているわかにもいかなかった。ペニスを有効に勃起させることだけが人生の目的ではないのだ。それはずっと昔にスタンダールの『パルムの僧院』を読んだときに私が感じたことでもあった。私は勃起のことを頭の中から追い払った。

何はともあれ私の下半身は何かしら中途半端な状況に置かれているのだ、と私は確認した。たとえば宙ぶらりになっているような……そう、私の下半身は岩盤の向う側の空間にぶらさがり、私の上半身がそれが落下するのをかろうじて阻止しているのだ。そして私の両手はそのためにしっかりとロープを握りしめているのだ。31-32

Maybe my lower body is gone, I thought. The shock from being thrown to the ground must’ve torn my body in two right around my wound, and my lower half was blown off. My legs, I thought, my toes, my stomach, my penis, my testicles, my… but the more I thought about it, it just didn’t seem right. If I’d lost all of my lower body, I would be in a lot more pain than I was right now.

I tried to reassess the situation with a level head. My lower half still existed. It was just in a state of not being able to feel anything. I sealed my eyes shut, fought off the never-ending waves of pain that surged in my head, and focused on my lower body. I realized that trying to focus on a lower body that felt like it didn’t exist was somewhat similar to trying to force a penis that wouldn’t get hard into an erection. It was like trying to put force into a space with nothing in it.

In the process, I remembered the girl with long hair and gastric dilation who worked at the library. That went spectacularly, I thought. For whatever reason I’d been unable to get an erection the moment I got into bed with her. That was right around when everything started to go off the rails. But I couldn’t keep thinking about it. Being able to successfully produce erections isn’t the only reason for living. That’s something I’d realized when I read Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma ages ago. I cleared my mind of hard-ons.

At any rate, I managed to confirm that my lower body had been placed in some sort of halfway state. For example, maybe it was dangling in air or… That was it. My lower body was dangling in the air over the side of a cliff, and my upper body was only just barely preventing me from falling. And that’s why my hands had a firm grip on a rope.

Ugh. My translation feels ugly and bloated and 直訳 compared with Birnbaum’s.

For the Complete Works edition (pages 333-334), Murakami chose to cut the entire third paragraph (highlighted in red) for some reason. It’s the only cut he chose to make for 25 pages (30 in the paperback)! What gives? There’s dozens of other lines that could have gone, and—trust me—Birnbaum finds them. There are entire passages that get dismissed in favor of moving the narrative along.

Was it the Stendhal reference? Or the Librarian? It can’t be the erections—he kept a few of those. I’m baffled by this one.

What say ye, reader?

Booty Call, As It Were

Chapter 22 “Gray Smoke” is back in the End of the World. The Gatekeeper continues to burn the beasts, and Boku is blinded by the reflection of the sun off fresh snowfall. His eyes are in such pain that he is almost unable to work that night, so he and the Librarian talk and then look in the Collection Room for a musical instrument after Boku realizes that her mother used to sing.

This is a nice quick chapter after the beast that was Chapter 21.

One minor side note before I look at the translation: This chapter does give the singing in the previous chapter more context. As I was reading Chapter 21, it all felt unnecessary and kind of random, but I think that’s the point. In this chapter, when Boku tries to remember a song, he says, “I take a deep breath but find no music in my memory.”

It’s almost like he is straining to hear Watashi in the previous chapter. Both he and the Girl in Pink have no trouble just making up lyrics as they go, but Boku doesn’t have it that easy.

There aren’t many big cuts to the translation or in the Complete Works version, but Birnbaum (or his editor) does make the usual changes: Cuts to the narrator’s reactions to make them simpler and starker. As with the previous chapter, there’s a surprising moment of romance/sexuality. Here is the official translation:

“Is there nothing else I can do for you?” she says, looking up unexpectedly.

“You do so much for me already,” I say.

She stays her hand and sits facing me. “I mean something else. Perhaps you wish to sleep with me.”

I shake my head.

“I do not understand,” she implores. “You said you needed me.”

“I do. But now it is not right.” (225)

And here is the Japanese followed by my translation:

「私が何かあなたにしてあげられることはあるかしら?」と彼女はふと顔を上げて言った。

「君はとてもよくしてくれているよ」と僕は言った。

彼女は頭骨を拭いていた手を休めて椅子に座り、正面から僕の顔を見た。「私が言っているのはそういうことじゃないの。もっととくべつなこと。たとえばあなたのベッドに入るとか、そんなことね」

僕は首を振った。「いや、君と寝たいわけじゃないんだ。そう言ってくれるのは嬉しいけどね」

「どうして?あなたは私を求めているんでしょう?」

「求めているさ。でも少なくとも今は君と寝るわけにはいかないんだ。それは求めるとか求めないというのとはまたべつの問題なんだ」 (322-323)

She lifts her head suddenly and says, “Is there something I can do for you?”

“You already do so much for me,” I say.

She withdraws the hand she was using to wipe the skull, sits down, and looks me square in the face. “I’m not talking about those kinds of things. I mean something more special. For example, I could join you in bed, something like that.”

I shake my head. “No, it isn’t that I want to sleep with you. I’m glad that you would say that, but…”

“Why? You do want me, right?”

“I do. It’s just, I mustn’t sleep with you right now. It’s unrelated to wanting you or not wanting you.”

Yeah, I ripped off that one Birnbaum line “You already do so much for me” but I don’t think it can be improved. More importantly, you can see that BOHE cuts two sentences of dialogue from Boku and opts to have him remain silent when she offers to sleep with him. The cuts have a very interesting effect, not necessarily a bad one.

BOHE also add a dialogue tag for the Librarian. She “implores” Boku.

And perhaps the most curious translation from Birnbaum is his version of あなたのベッドに入るとか. “Perhaps you wish to sleep with me” puts the action back on Boku rather than keeping the Librarian as the subject. It also smoothes over the somewhat unusual (?) Japanese ベッドに入る with the regularly encountered English phrase “sleep with X.” I dunno…maybe BOHE has the right idea, maybe it’s better to not draw attention to it. At any rate, I think “For example, I could sleep with you” would be a more accurate rendering that maintains the Librarian as the subject.

Murakami-san no tokoro

Murakami’s new advice column/blog is online: http://www.welluneednt.com/

The site is titled 村上さんのところ (Murakami-san’s place)—pretty standard—but the domain name is curious. I was disappointed that I didn’t recognize it from the jazz standard “Well, You Needn’t,” a 1944 Thelonious Monk composition.

In my defense, I haven’t been listening to as much Monk lately (mostly “Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington,” which may be the greatest album of all time), but I think the real culprit is the iPod-ification of all music. When I only carried 5-10 CDs in my car in rural Japan in 2005, I could’ve told you all the track names for “Thelonious Alone in San Francisco,” “Thelonious Himself” and “Solo Monk,” but alas, no longer. First I had an iPod classic with hundreds of albums, dozens from Monk, and now I have an iPhone that can stream just about anything (as long as I have wifi).

But back to the main point of this post: Murakami’s new column/blog. It’s nice. The design is simple and straightforward. The illustrations are well done. It’s easy to see the questions that Murakami has answered and to ask your own question. So far it’s very similar to some of the Murakami Asahido material and other public projects Murakami did (way before blogs were even a thing).

One of the most interesting things about the page is the “Categories” for the types of questions you can ask. Here is the list with my translation following:

1. 村上さんにおりいって質問したいこと・相談したいこと
2. 村上さんにちょっと話したいこと
3. 私の好きな場所・嫌いな場所
4. 「猫」あるいは「ヤクルト・スワローズ」関連

1. Things I want to ask Murkami/consult with him about
2. Things I’d like to tell Murakami about
3. Places I love/hate
4. (Things) related to cats or the Yakult Swallows

Very interesting. It seems like Murakami is looking for a pretty wide range of material. Questions and consultations, sure, but also just some randomness from his readers, things he can kind of bounce his thoughts off of and produce funny/quirky/interesting/readable material.

Obviously you sign away all rights when you ask a question. This stuff is going into a book in the not too distant future. You can ask questions until the end of January, and the site will be online until the end of March.

He’s going through questions at a pretty intense pace: He responded to six different inquiries on a Sunday (1/18)! I read through all of the entries through 1/17 and did some quicky translations on Twitter of interesting posts. Here are the results:

And when you ask a question, you get a very cool confirmation email with this graphic from the website:

murakamiCheck my Twitters for more translations in the coming weeks. I’ll plan to read through the posts as he answers…I want to see if he answers my question.

 

The Birds and the Trees

camphor

Final post for Chapter 21 “Bracelets, Ben Johnson, Devil,” the final chapter of the first half of the novel.

As we’ve seen in Posts 1, 2, 3, and 4, this chapter is long and isolates Watashi and the Girl in Pink. Birnbaum’s (or his editor’s) cuts in translation simplify her as a character. They eliminate her interests in sex and eliminate some of Watashi’s reaction to her as a sexual being. These might seem like excusable cuts—and many of them are, especially her “Bicycle Song”—but a scene cut near the end of the chapter helps put these seemingly light sections in context.

After the two of them sing to distract themselves, they make it to a plateau and continue onward. Watashi falls asleep, lured by the INKling trap, so they tie themselves together with rope. Watashi briefly goes back into his thoughts, but the Girl in Pink suggests they sing again and then, when Watashi rejects more songs (thankfully), that they have a conversation.

They decide to talk about rain, which leads to her character background: Her family all died in a car accident while she was in the hospital recovering from a heart operation. While she was in the hospital, she watched the birds on a camphor tree outside the window. Watching the birds made her sad.

Birnbaum’s translation of her back story makes some cuts but captures almost everything. Here’s how Birnbaum treats the subsequent passage, which has more cuts:

“It made you sad?”

“Because, like I said, there’s go to be millions of trees in the world and millions of birds and millions of rainfalls. But I couldn’t even figure one out, and I’d probably die that way. I just cried and cried, I felt so lonely. And that was the night my whole family got killed. Though they didn’t tell me until much later.”

“That must have been horrible.”

“Well, it was the end of the world for me. Everything got so dark and lonely and miserable. Do you know what that feels like?”

“I can imagine,” I said.

Her thoughts on rain occupied my thoughts. So much so I didn’t notice that she’d stopped and I bumped into her, again. (220)

And here’s how it looks in the Japanese:

「どうして?」

「たぶん世界が数えきれないほどの木と数えきれないほどの鳥と数えきれないほどの雨ふりに充ちているからよ。それなのに私にはたった一本のくすの木とたったひとつの雨ふりさえ理解することができないような気がしたの。永遠にね。たった一本のくすの木とたったひとつの雨ふりさえ理解できないまま、年をとって死んでいくんじゃないかってね。そう思うと、私はどうしようもなく淋しくなって、一人で泣いたの。泣きながら、誰かにしっかりと抱きしめてほしいと思ったの。でも抱きしめてくれる人なんて誰もいなかった。

それで私はひとりぼっちで、ベッドの上でずっと泣いていたの。

そのうちに日が暮れて、あたりが暗くなり、鳥たちの姿も見えなくなてしまったわ。だから私には雨が降っているのかどうか、たしかめることもできなくなってしまったの。その夕方に私の家族はみんな死んでしまったわ。私がそれを知らされたのはずっとあとのことだったけれどね」

「知らされたときは辛かっただろうね」

「よく覚えてないわ。そのときは何も感じなかったんじゃないかっていう気がするの。覚えているのは、私がその秋の雨ふりの夕暮に誰にも抱きしめてもらえなかったということだけ。それはまるで—私にとっての世界の終わりのようなものだったのよ。暗くてつらくてさびしくてたまらなく誰かに抱きしめてほしいときに、まわりに誰も自分を抱きしめてくれる人がいないというのがどういうことなのか、あなたにはわかる?」

「わかると思う」と私は言った。

「あなたは愛する人をなくしたことがある?」

「何度かね」

「それで今はひとりぼっちなのね?」

「そうでもないさ」とベルトに結んだナイロンのロープを指でしごきながら私は言った。「この世界では誰もひとりぼっちになることなんてできない。みんなどこかで少しずつつながってるんだ。雨も降るし、鳥も鳴く。腹も切られるし、暗闇の中で女の子とキスすることもある」

「でも愛というものがなければ、世界は存在しないのと同じよ」と太った娘は言った。「愛がなければ、そんな世界は窓の外をとおりすぎていく風と同じよ。手を触れることもできなければ、匂いをかぐこともできないのよ。どれだけ沢山の女の子をお金で買っても、どれだけ沢山のゆきずりの女の子と寝ても、そんなのは本当のことじゃないわ。誰もしっかりとあなたの体を抱きしめてはくれないわ」

「そんなにしょっちゅう女の子を買ったり、ゆきずりで寝てるわけじゃないさ」と私は抗議した。

「同じことよ」と彼女は言った。

まあそうかもしれない、と私は思った。誰かが私の体をしっかりと抱きしめてくれるわけではないのだ。私も誰かの体をしっかりと抱きしめるわけではない。そんな風に私は年をとりつづけているのだ。海底の岩にはりついたなまこのように、私はひとりぼっちで年をとりつづけるのだ。

私はぼんやりと考えごとをしながら歩いていたせいで、前を行く彼女が立ち止まったのにきがつかず、そのやわらかい背中にぶつかってしまった。(314-316)

“Why (did it make you sad)?”

“Probably because the world is full of countless trees and countless birds and countless rainy days, but I felt like I couldn’t even understand a single tree and a single rainy day. And I never would. Like I’d die without being able to understand a single camphor tree and a single rainy day. When I thought about that, I couldn’t help feeling incredibly sad, so I cried by myself. And while I cried, the whole time I kept wanting someone to hold me. But there was no one to hold me.

“So I just cried there on the (hospital) bed, all by myself.

“Eventually the sun set, everything got dark, and I couldn’t see the birds anymore. So I wasn’t able to tell whether it was still raining or not anymore. That night my whole family died. I wasn’t told until much later, though.”

“It must’ve been tough when they told you.”

“I don’t really remember. I probably didn’t feel anything when they told me. The only thing I remember is not having anyone to hold me on that rainy Autumn evening. It was like—the end of the world for me. Do you know what that’s like? To be incredibly sad, in pain, in the dark and to want someone to hold you but not to have anyone around to hold you?”

“I think I understand,” I said.

“Have you ever lost someone you loved?”

“Several times.”

“And now you’re lonely?”

“Not really,” I said as I drew the nylon rope connected to my belt through my fingers. “No one in this world can ever be lonely. Everything is connected somewhere in some slight way. Rain will fall and birds will sing. You might get your stomach cut, but sometimes you get to kiss girls in the dark.”

“But if there’s no love, that’s the same as the world not existing,” the plump girl said. “If you don’t have love, the world is just wind passing outside of a window: You can’t touch it or smell it. No matter how many girls you buy and how many girls you sleep with casually, it’s not real. None of them are going to hold you tightly.”

“I don’t buy girls or have casual sex all that often,” I protested.

“It’s still the same,” she said.

I guess so, I thought. No one was going to hold me tightly. Nor was I going to hold anyone tightly. I would keep getting older just like that. I would keep getting older alone, like a sea cucumber stuck to the ocean floor.

I drifted off into my thoughts as I walked and didn’t realize that the girl had stopped, so I ran right into her soft back.

Birnbaum (or his editor) has to cut part of this because BOHE already cut the makeout scene earlier in the chapter, which informs all the talk of “being held tightly.”

The Girl in Pink’s back story is pretty made-for-TV, but it makes her more compelling than she is without it, and this cut part in particular makes her seem much more human in all the scenes that were cut previously. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these ideas return in the second half of the novel (and get cut/trimmed there as well). Only one way to find out.

The Bicycle Song

pink

Happy New Year, folks. Yoroshiku and all that jazz in 2015.

Apologies for the delay with the Hard-boiled Wonderland Project. Two more posts in Chapter 21 “Bracelets, Ben Johnson, Devil” and I’ll be finished with half of the novel. Here comes the fourth and penultimate post.

This chapter is starting to feel longer than it actually is—which is very long, at least in the original Japanese.

The Girl in Pink and Watashi continue their subterranean march. They make it into the INKling sanctuary and then begin their climb up the “mountain” to a plateau. Birnbaum makes some judicious cuts of lengthy introspection about fear, accomplishment, and life. This chapter is so long that Murakami himself also makes some cuts from the original text to the Complete Works version.

First, check out how Birnbaum handles the translation when the pair of them decide to kill time on their hike by singing:

From time to time she called out to make sure I kept pace. “You okay?” she’d say. “Just a little more.”

Then, a while later, it was “Why don’t we sing something?”

“Sing what?” I wanted to know.

“Anything, anything at all.”

“I don’t sing in dark places.”

“Aw, c’mon.”

Okay, then, what the hell. So I sang the Russian folksong I learned in elementary school:

Snow is falling all night long—
Hey-ey! Pechka, ho!
Fire is burning very strong—
Hey-ey! Pechka, ho!
Old dreams bursting into song—
Hey-ey! Pechka, ho!

I didn’t know any more of the lyrics, so I made some up: Everyone’s gathered around the fire—the pechka—when a knock comes at the door and Father goes to inquire, and there’s a reindeer standing on wounded feet saying, “I’m hungry, give me something to “eat”; so they feed it canned peaches. In the end everyone’s sitting around the stove, singing along.

“Wonderful. You sing just fine,” she said. “Sorry I can’t applaud, but I’ve got my hands full.”

We cleared the bluff and reached a flat area. …” (214 − 215)

I won’t bother you with the full Japanese of this section because Birnbaum’s translation is basically spot on. He translates the Japanese song “Pechka” in a pretty clever way, but I think it’s clear if you compare it with a performance of the original Japanese that Birnbaum is going for a more upbeat version:

雪の降る夜は
楽しいペチカ
ペチカ燃えろよ お話しましょ
昔々よ
燃えろよペチカ

(Although pechka is a Russian word, the song seems to be a Japanese original by songwriter Kosaku Yamada with lyrics by poet Hakushū Kitahara. Here’s another even more somber version, and if those link fails, there should be some other versions on YouTube.)

But other than that, there isn’t much worth commenting on…until Watashi finishes singing. As you’ll see in this next ENORMOUS section, Birnbaum has cut a number of songs from the translation, and Murakami also makes some cuts. I’ve marked cuts Murakami made in the Complete Works version in red and provided the slightly altered intro to the Girl in Pink’s song in parenthesis. The original text contains all of the following:

「なかなかうまいじゃない」と彼女がほめてくれた。「握手できなくて悪いけど、すごく良い唄ね」

「ありがとう」と私は言った。

「もう一曲唄って」と娘が催促した。

それで私は『ホワイト・クリスマス』を唄った。

夢みるはホワイト・クリスマス
白き雪景色
やさしき心と
古い夢が
君にあげる
僕の贈りもの

夢みるはホワイト・クリスマス
今も目を閉じれば
橇の鈴の音や
雪の輝きが
僕の胸によみがえる

「とてもいいわ」と彼女が言った。「その歌詞はあなたが作ったの?」

「でまかせで唄っただけさ」

「どうして冬や雪の唄ばかり唄うの?」

「さあね。どうしてかな?暗くて冷たいからだろう。そういう唄しか思いつかないんだ」と私は岩のくぼみからくぼみへと体をひっぱりあげながら言った。「今度は君が唄う番だよ」(「次は君が唄う番だ」)

「『自転車の唄』でいいかしら?」

「どうぞ」と私は言った。

四月の朝に
私は自転車にのって
知らない道を
森へと向った
買ったばかりの自転車
色はピンク
ハンドルもサドルも
みんなピンク
ブレーキもゴムさえ
やはりピンク

「なんだか君自身の唄みたいだな」と私は言った。

「そうよ、もちろん。私自身の唄よ」と彼女は言った。「気に入った?」

「気に入ったね」

「つづき聞きたい?」

「もちろんさ」

四月の朝に
似合うのはピンク
それ以外の色は
まるでだめ
買ったばかりの自転車
靴もピンク
帽子もセーターも
みんなピンク
ズボンも下着も
やはりピンク

「ピンクにたいする君の気持ちはよく分かったから、話を先に進めてくれないかな」と私は言った。

「これは必要な部分なのよ」と娘は言った。「ねえ、ピンク色のサングラスってあると思う?」

「エルトン・ジョンがいつかかけていたような気がするな」

「ふうん」と彼女は言った。「まあいいや。つづき唄うわね」

道で私は
おじさんに会った
おじさんの服は
みんなブルー
髭を剃り忘れてるみたい
その髭もブルー
まるで長い夜みたいな
深いブルー
長い長い夜は
いつもブルー

「それは僕のことかな?」と私は訊いてみた。

「いいえ、違うわ。あなたのことじゃない。この唄にあなたは出てこないの」

森に行くのは
よしたがいいよ、あんた
とおじさんは言う
森のきまりは
獣たちのためのもの
それがたとえ
四月の朝であったとしても
水は逆に流れたりはしないものだ
四月の朝にも

それでも私は自転車で森へ向う
ピンクの自転車の上で
四月の晴れた朝に
こわいものなんて何もない
色はピンク
自転車から降りなければ
こわくない
赤でもブルーでも茶でもない
まっとうなピンク

彼女が『自転車の唄』を唄い終えた少しあとで、我々はどうやら崖をのぼりきったらしく、広々とした台地のようなところに出た (377-382)

“You’re pretty good,” she said, complimenting my singing. “I’m sorry I can’t clap for you. That was a great song.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“Sing one more,” she prodded.

So I sang “White Christmas.”

I’m dreaming of a White Christmas
With white snowy scenes
A gentle heart
And old dreams
Are the present
I give to you

I’m dreaming of a White Christmas
Even now when I close my eyes
The ring of the sleigh bells
And the bright snow
Fill my heart with memories

“That was nice,” she said. “Did you make up those lyrics?”

“I just sang it randomly.”

“Why do you only sing songs about winter and snow?”

“Dunno,” I said. “Wonder why. Maybe it’s so cold and dark down here those are the only songs I can think of.” I dragged myself from hole to hole in the boulders. “Now it’s your turn to sing.” (“Next it’s your turn to sing.”)

“Is it okay if I sing ‘The Bicycle Song’?”

“Sure,” I said.

On an April morning
I got on my bicycle
And headed into the woods
Down a strange path
I’d just bought the bike
And it was pink
The handlebars and seat too
Everything was pink
Even the brakes and the tires
They were all pink

“You’ve really captured your spirit with this song,” I said.

“Yes, of course,” she said. “It’s my song. Do you like it?”

“I do.”

“Do you want to hear the rest?”

“Of course.”

On an April morning
Pink suits me
All other colors
Are no good
My brand-new bike
My shoes were pink
My helmet and sweater too
Everything was pink
My shorts and underwear too
They were all pink

“I’m starting to understand how you feel about the color pink,” I said. “Do you think you could move the story along a little?”

“This part is necessary,” she said. “Hey, do you think they have pink sunglasses?”

“I feel like Elton John has probably worn some at some point.”

“Hmm,” she said. “Ok. I’ll sing the rest.”

On the road
I met an old man
All of the man’s clothes
Were totally blue
He’d also forgotten to shave
And his beard was blue
A deep blue
Like a long, lonely night
Long, long nights are
Always blue

“Is that me?” I asked.

“No, it’s not. It’s not about you. You aren’t in this song.”

Hey you
You shouldn’t go to the woods
The old man said
The rules of the woods
Are for the beasts
And even on an April morning
Water won’t flow in the opposite direction
Even on an April morning

But I still headed for the woods
On my pink bicycle
On a clear April morning
There was nothing that could scare me
And if I never got off my bicycle
That was the color pink
I wouldn’t be scared
Not red or blue or brown
But proper pink

Shortly after she finished singing “The Bicycle Song,” we appeared to clear the bluff and come to a wide open plateau-like area.

I’ve translated the songs pretty literally without much attention to poetics or anything, so I’m sure there are some places that make the Japanese original seem even stranger than it actually is, but WHAT was Murakami thinking with this passage? I mean, he writes it himself: Do you think you could move the story along a little?

My best guess is that Murakami wasn’t thinking when he wrote these sections and that they are examples of his writing style, unadulterated by any editing whatsoever. It’s clear that he’s trying to use them to connect Watashi’s world with Boku’s—there’s the snow, woods, reindeer (which are kind of like unicorn, right?), and beasts—but it’s just too indirect and never goes anywhere. Far too random to be anything but annoying additions that Japanese readers have to slog through. Ugh. And Murakami only chose to cut “White Christmas” in his edited version!

I’m not sure if there’s anything else to mention about this passage other than that Birnbaum’s cuts are significant improvements.

Troglodytes and Yuppie Ad Execs

In my nostalgic reminiscing about the National Diet Library, I forgot to introduce one of the coolest parts of my new essay over at Neojaponisme, “Murakami Haruki’s Advertorial Short Stories”: While I was writing it, I found another cut in the translation of Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

Toward the end of the novel, after escaping from the subterranean nightmare, Watashi heads out to get dressed up for a date with the Librarian. The scene has stayed in my mind ever since my earliest reading 15 years ago, perhaps because of Murakami’s fashion sense: Watashi picks out a burnt orange shirt and navy blazer.

So when I needed an example of Murakami’s attention to fashion in his fiction, it was the first scene that came to mind, and I had a feeling that the official English translation might have been altered by Birnbaum (or his editor).

As luck would have it, I was right. This was like the lamest Babe Ruth calling the lamest home run he ever hit in an empty stadium, but privately I took a victory lap and pumped my arm like Kirk Gibson as I did. Check out the English translation:

I took the subway to Ginza and bought a new set of clothes at Paul Stuart, paying the bill with American Express. I looked at myself in the mirror. Not bad. The combination of the navy blazer with burnt orange shirt did smack of yuppie ad exec, but better that than troglodyte. (342)

And here’s the original followed by my translation from the piece:

私はまず電車で銀座に出て〈ポール・スチュアート〉でシャツとネクタイとブレザーコートを買い、アメリカン・エキスプレスで勘定を払った。それだけを全部身につけて鏡の前に立ってみると、なかなか印象は悪くなかった。オリーヴ・グリーンのチノ・パンツの折りめが消えかけているのが多少気になるが、まあ何から何まで完全というわけにはいかない。ネイビー・ブルーのフラノのブレザーコートにくすんだオレンジ色のシャツというとりあわせはどことなく広告会社の若手有望社員という雰囲気を私に与えていた。少なくともついさっきまで地底を這いまわっていて、あと二十一時間ほどでこの世界から消えていこうとする人間には見えない。 (500)

First, I took the train to Ginza and bought a shirt, a tie, and a blazer at Paul Stuart, paying for it with my American Express. I put it all on and looked at myself in the mirror. Not bad. I was a little worried that the center creases in my olive chinos had started to fade, but I guess not everything had to be perfect. And the combination of the navy blue flannel blazer and burnt orange shirt did make me look a little like a young employee at an advertising firm. But at least I didn’t look like someone who’d just been crawling around in the sewer and only had 21 hours left before he disappeared from the world.

Personally I love Birnbaum’s rendering. It’s so concise. He probably could have better captured Watashi’s hemming and hawing, which is funny because these are the kinds of things he’s worried about just before he’s about to die, but you have to love troglodyte and yuppie ad exec. Just perfect.

This passage is from Chapter 33, far ahead of where I am now in the blog, but I should have more posts soon and be able to extract myself from the endless Chapter 21.

The National Diet Library and Yoru no kumozaru

jpress

Sometimes when an experience is particularly unique and irreplaceable it feels to me like a sort of premature nostalgia, if that makes any sense. It’s qualitatively different from knowing that you likely won’t be able to do something again. It’s calmer, less wistful, and more powerful. And—at the risk of enraging linguists everywhere—more unique.

My trip to the National Diet Library in December of 2008 was one of those experiences. It was a crisp Saturday, and I got up early so that I would have time to walk up the hill from Shimbashi past Hibiya Park and arrive at the library around the time it opened at 9:00. I listened to the B.S. Report on my iPod Mini on the walk, and the area was almost empty of other people.

At the library, I made a user ID and a card, and I put my bag into a locker—you’re only allowed to have transparent plastic bags inside the library. I spent a few hours in the morning researching a random topic (that so far has been inconsequential), and then I had lunch in the 食堂 on the top floor.

I wish I could remember what I ate. I think it was either curry rice or beef bowl, but those feel like a cross between what I would order now and the defaults options on the menu at places like that. They had a transparent display of food items rendered in plastic and a machine that dispensed tickets which you present to workers wearing aprons and hats.

I ate alone. I did everything alone that day. I was lonely at the time, but that day it was a more satisfying kind of loneliness than usual.

After satisfying my need for food, refueling so I could focus again, I headed down to the basement which houses the periodical section and the photocopy request area. It’s full of an interesting crowd. This isn’t like the crowd that you’d see at a public library in the U.S. or even in Japan; those places are often homes for lonely itinerants. The National Diet Library houses everything ever published in Japan, including manga, so there were some serious otaku checking out rarities otherwise difficult to obtain (「今となっては漫画一冊8000円とかするような、絶版の超レア漫画が普通に読めるからいいよな」).

I was there to take out old issues of Shincho from 1992 to check out the original serialization of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. It’s surprisingly short and makes up the first book of the three-book set. I made photocopies but haven’t taken a close look at it yet.

Then I started taking out old issues of Men’s Club to see the original Yoru no kumozaru short shorts. I determined the original order of publication, compared how Murakami changed that for the collected edition, and read the stories that he had chose to cut, my favorite of which is “Hotel Lobby Oysters.” Somewhat insanely, I had color photocopies made of every story from 1983 to 1985, as well as a few random pages I thought were funny, such as a photo spread the magazine did of Yale.

While my photocopy request was in the queue, I had a coffee at the cafe in the library. I have these vivid memories of an expansive area that overlooked the cafe, but they’re blurry, so I’m not sure.

I looked through the second half of the stories in Taiyō, but at that point I had already spent nearly $50-60 on photocopies, which I felt was enough, and it was getting late in the day, so I copied the title story and a couple of the ones that Murakami cut.

When I left it was already dark. I walked down the hill and thought about drinking beer, about the konbini near Nishi-Ōi Station where I would buy the beer, about the apartment I was sharing with five others where I would drink the beer. Everything after that has been erased from my memory—just another night of drinking beer, I guess. Murakami has said that one of the most satisfying things about writing his first novel was when a friend told him it made him want to drink beer. I think that somehow applies to this memory, or the way I think of it today.

I’ve finally gone back through the Murakami short shorts with David Marx over at Neojaponisme and looked at what the intersection between art, commerce, and fashion might mean: “Murakami Haruki’s Advertorial Short Stories.”

After going through the stories again, I’ve realized that there is still one story that I haven’t read! The very last Taiyō short is titled 「最後の挨拶」(Final Message). So maybe I will have a chance to go back to the National Diet Library someday. I highly recommend it as an activity, and I especially recommend the periodical section. Try and have something in mind that you want to take out, even if it’s (just?) the first issue of Shonen Jump.

According to old emails I’ve checked, David and my piece on Murakami has been in the works for five years. I think I was still a bit defensive about Murakami’s career back in 2009 and hesitant to come to some of the conclusions that David wanted to make from a style/fashion point of view, but they’ve become more apparent to me. In the interval between then and now Murakami has put out more and more works that feel like pastiche of his early material…or at least of his writing process, which I think he really crystallizes in these short-shorts.

Art courtesy of Neojaponisme and Ian Lynam.

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!