Good Ideas

55-65 read and understood. Most of this section was spent in the End of the World, which was awesome. The paragraphs suddenly become longer and denser, and Murakami takes the reader through the buildings of the town for the first time. The text thins out a bit thanks to dialogue once the Librarian gets introduced.

In terms of the translation, I was really interested in some adjustments that Birnbaum makes towards the end of the previous chapter during and after the data laundering process. The old man explains what the data is, how he’ll use it to control sound, and Watashi says that he should be careful that it doesn’t fall into Semiotec hands:

“I know, I know. That’s why I’ve withheld all my data and processes, so they wouldn’t be pokin’ into things. Probably means even the world of science doesn’t take me seriously, but what of that? Tosh, a hundred years from now my theories will all’ve been proved. That’s enough, isn’t it?”


“Okay, son, launder and shuffle everything.”

“Yessir,” I said, “yessir.” (35)

At first I thought that this was an egregious translation, but after I typed it out and thought about it for a while, there’s really only one minor part that Birnbaum cuts, and the rest are just “adjustments”:




「なるほど」と私は言った。 (28)

My humble version:

“I’ve also been keeping that point in mind. Which is why I’m concealing the data and processes; I’ll only be announcing it in theoretical form. Then there’ll be no way they can decipher it. The academics will probably come after me as well, but who cares about that. In a hundred years all my theories will’ve been proven, and that’ll be enough.”

“Hmm,” I said.

“So it’s all up to your laundering and shuffling, ya see.”

“That figures,” I said.

The only line cut (which I’ve bolded), I realized on second read, is the fact that the old man will be presenting his theories, which isn’t apparent in the English. On first read I felt like it made the old man slightly more sinister and interested in the fame and acclaim. I guess it’s not a major change either way, but it does contrast with the English.

The adjustments at the end of the section, however, are more radical. Birnbaum has the old man encourage Watashi and Watashi replies with a simple affirmative, whereas in the Japanese Murakami has the old man place the responsibility squarely on Watashi’s shoulders and then has Watashi reply with the なるほど. I can’t tell how sarcastic this was meant to be; is it on the same level as a やれやれ or slightly lower? I went with “That figures,” (get it, figures? Ha ha.) but I think “Of course” might work too.

Birnbaum also plays with Watashi’s characterization at the very end of the chapter. During a break in the data laundering, Watashi asks about the mute granddaughter, and the old man curses himself for forgetting to return her speech to normal. Then the old man says he needs to go back and return her to normal. Watashi’s response in translation is merely:


But in Japanese, it is this:

「その方がよさそうですね」と私は言った。 (58)

In translation:

“That sounds like a good idea,” I said.

Here again Birnbaum alters one of Watashi’s lines of dialogue at the end of a section making him seem more aloof and less sarcastic in translation. Although as we’ve seen in other posts, he is adding a generous amount of it back in in other places.

Paperclips and Gestures

Belated post to account for pages 45-55, which I completed in a single reading last weekend. I’ll be focusing on the English this time around and some of Murakami’s narrative techniques.

Still in Chapter 3 with Watashi making his way to the laboratory and working with the old man. This is a very long chapter, especially in comparison with the first two chapters. Chapter 1 is 11 pages in translation but perhaps feels longer because of all the waiting and thinking involved – we’re in Watashi’s head the whole time. Chapter 2 is a scant six pages, but it has great images, concisely establishes tension with the Gatekeeper, and is effectively the inverse of Chapter 1: while Chapter 1 focuses on Watashi’s inner thoughts, Chapter 2 has almost no response from Boku to his surroundings, no interiority.

I think this is a really good strategy for the beginning of the book. The short chapters help the reader feel like they are moving at a good pace, and the interiority or lack thereof sets up themes that Murakami will cash in on later. The concision of Chapter 2 also does an amazing job of creating an air of mystery – through specificity of detail and not through vagueness – and generates an incredible desire to spend more time in this world.

It makes sense, then, that Chapter 3 is longer. As a readers, we’ve now been primed and are ready to get through material to jump between worlds and learn more about both (and experience the different pleasures that each offers). Murakami can now take his time and give the details about the System and the Factory, Semiotecs and Calcutecs, etc. and we will put up with it. Had he frontloaded this information, it might not have gone down so easily. (This is probably a technique Murakami should have considered for 1Q84.)

In Chapter 3, Murakami also makes effective use of gesture, which he often gets criticized for in other works (temple rubbing, etc). In this case Murakami uses gesture to characterize the old man:

The old man looked me over. Then he picked up a paperclip and unbent it to scrape at a fingernail cuticle. His left index finger cuticle. When he’d finished with the cuticle, he discarded the straightened paperclip into the ashtray. If I ever get reincarnated, it occurred to me, let me make certain I don’t come back as a paperclip. (26)

This makes great use of the paperclip, which will recur throughout the story, and characterizes the old man as unthinking in the way he treats the paperclip. Murakami brings it up once more briefly in these ten pages, but it doesn’t feel overused. I’ll be keeping an eye on this for the rest of the chapter, which is just another three pages.

And a bit o the Japanese since I can’t help myself. The last line is an interesting translation by Birnbaum, but I think he does the Japanese justice:


Murakami does put Watashi into the mindset of the paperclip with the adversative passive, which I think corresponds not indelicately in the English version as I considers being reincarnated.

That phrase ぞっとしない is confusing even to Japanese people, apparently, and the Internets sez it was invented by Soseki himself. Not bad, eh?

Mummied Up

Pages 15-45 complete. I’m in the middle of Chapter 3, and Watashi has just passed through the waterfall with the old man into his lab.

Earlier in the chapter, I was really impressed with some of Birnbaum’s work. Check out this passage:

“Nice fragrance,” I complimented her on her eau de cologne.

“Thanks,” she mouthed, doing the hood snaps up to right below my nose. Then over the hood came goggles. And there I was, all slicked up and nowhere to go—or so I thought.

That was when she pulled open the closet door, led me by the hand, and shoved me in. She turned on the light and pulled the door shut behind her. Inside, it was like any clothes closet—any clothes closet without clothes. Only coat hangers and mothballs. It probably wasn’t even a clothes closet. Otherwise, what reason could there be for me getting all mummied up and squeezed into a closet.” (20)

And the original:



それから彼女はクローゼットの扉のひとつを開け、私の手を引いてその中に押し込んでから中のライトを点け、後手でドアを閉めた。ドアの中は洋服だんすになっていた。洋服だんすとはいっても洋服の姿はなく、コート・ハンガーや防虫ボールがいくつかさがっているだけだ。たぶんこれはただの洋服だんすではなく、洋服だんすを装った秘密の通路か何かだろうと私は想像した。何故なら私が雨合羽を着せられて洋服だんすに押しこまれる意味なんて何もないからだ。 (38)

And my version closer to the original so non-Japanese-readers can see what’s up:

“You smell great,” I said, complimenting her perfume.

“Thanks,” she said and closed up the snaps on the hood to just below my nose. Then she put on the goggles over the hood. This turned me into a waterproof mummy.

Then she opened one of the closet doors, took my hand and pushed me inside, flipped on the light, and shut the door with her other hand. Inside it was a wardrobe. But there was no sign of any clothes, just hangers and mothballs. Maybe this isn’t a wardrobe, I thought, maybe it’s a secret passage disguised to look like a wardrobe. If it weren’t, I have no idea why she would suit me up in this ridiculous rain gear and force me inside.

Have you spotted the line I’m interested in? Of course it’s the mummy line. Birnbaum translates over it in that second paragraph, instead going with “all slicked up and nowhere to go” (which is a hilarious line). He then reincorporates the mummy aspect at the end of the third paragraph: “all mummied up” (another great line). I like the way the “mummied up” translation preserves the passive aspect of the original Japanese, but I imagine Jay Rubin might argue that it is the equivalent of the “passivication” of English: the pudgy cute girl is clearly the person who causes Watashi to be 押しこまれるd, and why shouldn’t that get represented in English?

Despite Birnbaum’s playfulness here with the English, I think Rubin wouldn’t mind using the mummy line in the third paragraph. I once heard him say “if you take something out, put something back in.” Or maybe he said “if you take something out, put it back in somewhere else.” Either quote seems to apply in this case.

(Oh, and a small sidenote. I used the asterisks to denote italics because I can’t italicize things in my blockquotes right now for some reason. I need to figure out how to mess with my CSS without imploding the blog, so lemme know if you have any thoughts on how I might do this. Initially the theme italicized everything in blockquotes, which was just ridiculous, but I figured out how to fix that. Update 2013/2/17: I think I fixed the italicized thing. Thanks Thomas!)

Cool Kanji – 楼

Pages 15-35 accounted for. I finished Chapter 2 a couple days ago and was amazed at how much of a pleasure it was to be in the End of the World. Murakami provides so much specific detail for the world, specifically for the beasts but also for characters like the Gatekeeper, and he really takes his time with that first chapter and uses the beasts to introduce the world.

It was easy to understand what 望楼 (ぼうろう) meant from context, but I had to look up the pronunciation. 望 was familiar from compounds such as 展望台 (てんぼうだい) and 願望 (がんぼう), but I didn’t know 楼, which on its own is pronounced just ろう.

It’s made up of the 木 radical on the left, which makes sense since watchtowers are wooden, and then on the right there is 米 above 女, which points to the other meaning of the character suggested by the third definition in Yahoo – a restaurant (?) where johns retreat with a prostitute. That makes it easier to remember the radicals involved – food and ladies in a wooden building…up high.
Update: NOTE: This is just my personal mnemonic and is not based on any actual etymological history. Check out the comments for the actual 字源. Neat stuff.

A couple of notes about the chapter:

– Birnbaum translates the End of the World section in present tense, which works so nicely. The Japanese, although told in past tense, does seem to fit to present tense somewhat naturally since Murakami is describing the unending repetition in the town as it goes through the seasons. The last sentence in the chapter is このようにして街の一日は終わる。

– Only two minor cuts and an adjustment or two. One sentence details the three small watchtowers along the wall, and the other provides more specific details about the violence of the beasts when they fight. When Boku asks the Gatekeeper why he uses the knives, Birnbaum has him answer “I’ll show you” when the winter comes, but the Japanese is closer to “You’ll see” when winter comes. Nothing major beyond that.

Fat-bottomed Girls

No extensive cuts in the first ten pages of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, just one paragraph and a few minor sentences, but Birnbaum does choose to leave out one really nice line. The elevator door has opened and Boku Watashi is following the plump lady in a pink suit:

The woman was on the chubby side. Young and beautiful and all that went with it, but chubby. Now a young, beautiful woman who is, shall we say, plump, seems a bit off. Walking behind her, I fixated on her body. (7)

Here is the Japanese:


Birnbaum gets everything, for the most part, but leaves out the last sentence for whatever reason. I thought it was nicely phrased:

The woman was chubby. Young and beautiful, sure, but chubby nonetheless. There’s something strange about a young, beautiful woman who is chubby. The whole time I walked behind her, I looked at her neck and arms and legs. It was as though a thick layer of fat had settled there overnight like a silent, heavy snowfall.

My guess is that Birnbaum didn’t want to make Boku Watashi seem like too much of a creeper this early in the novel. He cuts the final sentence and turns the specific target of Boku’s Watashi’s vision into a more general “fixated,” which I think reads smoothly but definitely alters the original.

Cool Compound – 静物画

Pages 15-22 are in the bag. This was my first time reading Japanese for about 4-5 months, and there has been noticeable deterioration in my kanji recognition skills. I noticed this at Japan Fest the other day when I wrote ヨ and thought to myself, hey, that looks like a backwards E. This is not a good sign.

When I was reading through these pages, 静物画 (せいぶつが) really stood out to me. I had to stare at 静 for a while to remember what it meant and how to pronounce it, but I knew from context and memory what it meant in Japanese – it’s hard to forget the initial elevator scene in Hard-Boiled Wonderland. Long, wind-up opening chapters became Murakami’s trademark with this novel, and nowhere is it more fun to read than here. We’re locked in boku’s Watashi’s consciousness and humor: he sees himself as a still life portrait in this strange elevator.

The compound 静物, a very cool homophone with 生物, follows the pattern ADJECTIVE + NOUN (still/quiet + thing) and is then attached to 画.

The good news is that I did not have to look this one up and was still able to rustle up the meaning and pronunciation. I wasn’t so lucky with 歩幅 (ほはば), a NOUN + NOUN compound. I blame this on the stupid compound 几帳面 (きちょうめん), which came a few sentences before and primed my brain to read any 巾 kanji as ちょう.

Mountain Climbing

With the goal of stirring up even more interest in Murakami between now and mid-October, when the Nobel Prizes are announced, I will post a small piece of Murakami translation once a week from now until the announcement. You can see the other entries in this year’s series here: Jurassic Sapporo, Gerry Mulligan, All Growns Up, Dance.

One more post this year, just a quick one due to schedule challenges at Morales Headquarters.

We fast-forward a few chapters. Boku has been hanging out in the hotel, still longing for connection with someone, so he sort of tortures Yumiyoshi a bit. After one incident where he bothers her at the front desk, she calls him in his room to chastise him.

“It’s very upsetting. I told you that. When I’m on duty, I get tense. So please, don’t do anything like that again. You promised not to stare too.”

“I wasn’t staring. I was just trying to talk to you.”

“Well, then, from now on, no more talking like that. Please.”

“I promise, I promise. No talking. No staring and no talking. I’ll be quiet as granite. But you know, while I’ve got you on the line, are you free this evening? Or do you have mountain-climbing lessons tonight?”

There was the sound of a dry laugh, half of it silence, and then she hung up.” (99)

Boku here is poking fun at Yumiyoshi’s “swim club” (in Japanese スイミング・スクール), which previously prevented her from going on another date. In Japanese, this has just a minor cut:








彼女は壁に書かれた字を読みあげるみたいに乾いた平板な声ではははと言った。そして電話を切った。 (150)

I’ll go ahead and translate the whole thing even though Birnbaum includes almost everything (much more successfully than I do). The cut comes close to the end:

“I get nervous. Didn’t I already tell you? I’m always really nervous while I’m working. So I don’t want anyone bothering me. And you promised that you wouldn’t stare either.”

“I wasn’t staring. I just tried talking to you.”

“Well, don’t talk to me like that again. Please.”

“I promise. I won’t talk to you. Won’t stare or talk to you. I’ll be as still and quiet as granite. So, anyway, are you free tonight? Or do you have your mountain-climbing class tonight?”

“Mountain climbing class?” she said and sighed. “That’s a joke, right?”

“Yeah, it’s a joke.”

“Sometimes I don’t get jokes like that. *Mountain climbing* class. Ha. Ha. Ha.” She laughed dryly like she was reading each Ha off a board on the wall where they were written. Then she hung up.

This is a typical Birnbaum cut. He’s going for speed and humor and, in doing so, he uses a translation sandpaper of a courser grit, knocking off the edges here and there. Both his and Murakami’s version help characterize Yumiyoshi, but they do so in different ways. Murakami reveals her naiveté and her sense of humor, whereas Birnbaum cuts to the chase, creating a kind of snarkier version.

I’d be interested to track this throughout the whole book and see how the balance works out. Sadly, though, the Nobel Prize announcement is this Thursday, so it’ll have to wait until next year! Unless this is the year he wins. He’s getting 2/1 odds right now, which is the highest he’s ever been. See y’all at the announcement!

And on a side note, I’ve been using asterisks to symbolize italics within my block quotes because I’m still trying to work out the CSS of my new theme. (The standard setting has all blockquote text in italics, which was clearly programmed by someone who is a computer science major and not a liberal arts major. I managed to prevent that from happening but the result is that I am unable to italicize anything.) The Japanese is, of course, 傍点, which I’m still not sure can be accomplished in CSS…anyone know? It’s difficult to tell, but I bolded the original Japanese.


With the goal of stirring up even more interest in Murakami between now and mid-October, when the Nobel Prizes are announced, I will post a small piece of Murakami translation once a week from now until the announcement. You can see the other entries in this year’s series here: Jurassic Sapporo, Gerry Mulligan, All Growns Up.

I’d be remiss to examine the translation of Dance Dance Dance without looking at Birnbaum’s treatment of the Sheep Man, and I’ll be doing that this week, but first I want to look at the way Birnbaum adjusts ends of stories and section breaks. We saw a little hint of this last week when Birnbaum adjusted regular speaker tags and straight dialogue to create a cooler Boku and a funnier place to pause: not total invention, but definitely a cleaning up of Murakami’s text.

One of the most noticeable places where Birnbaum made a tone-altering decision is at the end of “Lederhosen” from Dead-heat on a Merry-go-round (in translation in The Elephant Vanishes). The story is ostensibly narrated by Murakami himself, and he recounts and encounter with his wife’s friend, a woman whose mother divorces herself from her husband and daughter after a trip to Germany where she has a local try on a souvenir pair of lederhosen in place of the husband. Here are the last few lines:

“Still, if you leave the lederhosen out of it, supposing it was just the story of a woman taking a trip and finding herself, would you have been able to forgive her?”

“Of course not,” she says without hesitation. “The whole point is the lederhosen, right?”

A proxy pair of lederhosen, I’m thinking, that her father never even received. (129)

The Japanese is:



「僕もそう思う」と僕はいった。 (33)

The first two paragraphs are faithful translations, but the last line in English is:

“I think so, too,” I said.

Even taking liberties, you could go for something like, “I have to agree,” I said. Or even just “I had to agree.” Birnbaum goes much further and has the narrator meditate on the image of the lederhosen, which I think is a stronger ending, one that emphasizes the strange physicality of the clothing and how they must’ve shaped the man (and the husband, in her imagination, giving her some kind of new perspective). But liberties have clearly been taken.

The same is true when the Sheep Man is introduced in Dance Dance Dance. In Chapter 9, Boku is out of things to do and decides to head to the bar on one of the upper floors of the hotel. He gets caught up in his thoughts about Egypt, the receptionist, swim clubs, and he finds that the Sheep Man has popped into his thoughts. He gets out of the elevator and is surrounded by darkness. Chapter 10 is a few short pages of Boku navigating more of his thoughts and the strange darkness of the hotel hallway. It ends with these lines:

“Beenwaitingforyou. Beenwaitingforages. Comeonin.”

I knew who it was without opening my eyes. (79)

The Japanese is close to this, but not identical:



羊男だった。 (122)

Again, the last line is absent in translation: “It was the Sheep Man.” An unnecessary line, for sure, especially since Murakami so creepily has the Sheep Man appear in Boku’s thoughts. We expect it to be the Sheep Man, and Birnbaum’s unique formatting of his dialogue make it impossible to mistake. It’s a better chapter break without the line.

There are other cuts made in my favorite section of the novel, where the Sheep Man tells Boku to dance. Nothing too major, but still interesting to examine. In translation, here’s how Birnbaum renders it:

“So where does that leave me?”

“Youlostlotsofthings. Lostlotsofpreciousthings. Notanybody’sfault. Buteachtimeyoulostsomething, youdroppedawholestringofthingswithit. Nowwhy? Why’dyouhavetogoanddothat?”

“I don’t know.”

“Hardtododifferent. Yourfate,orsomethinglikefate. Tendencies.”


“Tendencies. Yougottendencies. Soevenifyoudideverythingoveragain, yourwholelife, yougottendenciestodojustwhatyoudid, alloveragain.”

“Yes, but where does that leave me?”

“Likewesaid, we’lldowhatwecan. Trytoreconnectyou,towhatyouwant,” said the Sheep Man. “Butwecan’tdoitalone. Yougottaworktoo. Sitting’snotgonnadoit, thinking’snotgonnadoit.”

“So what do I have to do?”

“Dance,” said the Sheep Man. “Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougotta dance. Don’teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop, wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, you’restuck. Sodon’tpayanymind, nomatterhowdumb. Yougottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhatyoubolteddown. Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou’retired, tiredandscared. Happenstoeveryone, okay? Justdon’tletyourfeetstop.”

I looked up and gazed again at the shadow on the wall. (85-86)

I love that section. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I quoted the Sheep Man from this section in the high school yearbook my senior year. Birnbaum does amazing work with his weird, no-spacing style and with the actual language he gives the Sheep Man to say. However, he does make a few changes – an interesting rearrangement and a cut of a significant section:











僕は目を上げて、また壁の上の影をしばらく見つめた。 (131-133)

Put that into the Morales Translation Machine, and you get:

“What should I be doing, then?”

“You’ve lost a lot of things on your way here. Lost a heap of important things. And it ain’t worth worrying over whose fault it is. But you did have a lot of things attached to what you lost. Whenever you lost something, you left behind something else attached to it. Almost like a *sign* of some sort. That you shouldn’ta done. You left behind things that you should’ve kept for yourself. And by doing that, you gradually wore yourself down. Now why was that? Why would you go and do something like that?”

“I dunno.”

“Maybe it couldn’ta been helped. Something like fate, ‘er, whaddya call it…can’t think of a good word for ‘er…”

“Tendencies,” I offered.

“Yep, that’s it. Tendencies. That’s what we think it is. Even if you did your whole life over again, you’d end up doing the same things again. That’s what tendencies are. And once you go beyond a certain point, those tendencies prevent you from ever getting back. It’s too late. Even we can’t do anything for you after that. All we can do is watch over this place, and connect all sorts of things. Can’t do anything else.

“What should I be doing, then?” I said, asking again the same question as before.

As I told you before, we’ll do all we can for you. Everything we can, so you can get connected well,” the Sheep Man said. “But that’s not enough on its own. You’ve gotta do all you can as well. Can’t just sit around thinking about stuff the whole time. Do that and you won’t get anywhere. You understand?”

“I understand,” I said. “So what exactly is it I need to do?”

“Dance,” the Sheep Man said. “Just dance while the music’s playing. You get what we’re saying? Dance. Keep dancing. Don’t think about why you’re dancing. Don’t think about what it means. Think about that and yer feet’ll stop. Yer feet stop, and there’s nothing we can do for you. All yer connections go poof and are gone. Gone forever. Let that happen, and you’ll only be able to live in this world. You’ll gradually be pulled into this world. So don’t stop your feet. No matter how silly you think it is, don’t pay any attention to that. Keep dancing all the right steps. And loosen up all the things that have tightened, just a little at a time is fine. There’s gotta be some things it ain’t too late to save. Use everything ya can. Do your best. There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re definitely tired. And because of that you’re scared. Everybody’s got times like that. Everything feels like it’s wrong. And that’s why your feet stop.”

I lifted my eyes and stared at the shadows on the top of the wall again for a second.

I’ve underlined all the sections that are unaccounted for. Nothing too major missing except for the “You’ll only be able to live in this world” section. Birnbaum doesn’t cut all of this from the chapter; earlier there is a long section where the Sheep Man explains that Boku is a part of “this world.” This section is just another prompt that links the conversation more smoothly to Boku’s question, “What is *this world* you keep talking about?”

The most notable change is that Boku is the one who comes up with the word “tendencies.” The Sheep Man slips, can’t think of the word, and Boku supplies it. I wonder if the lack of spacing would have made it difficult to get across the rhythm of that exchange.

No major complaints or lessons from me this week. Just further realization that translation might be the most interesting thing to do in the world.

Last Line

With the goal of stirring up even more interest in Murakami between now and mid-October tomorrow, when the Nobel Prizes are announced, I will post a small piece of Murakami translation once a week from now until the announcement. You can see the other entries in this year’s series here: More DrawersPhone CallsMetaphorsEight-year-olds, dude, Ushikawa.

Tomorrow is the announcement! Murakami started at 16/1 moved to 8/1 and now is in second place at 6/1 behind Bob Dylan. (If Bob wins, I hope Sgt. Tanuki writes something epic about it.) This year Murakami’s chances are as good as they’ve ever been.

For this year’s final entry, I figured I’d go simple. I began my liveblog of 1Q84 with the very first sentence of the novel, so this week I’ll translate the very last sentence of Book 3. Translating any more than that will spoiler.

Here it is:

Until, in the light of a new sun that had just risen, [the moon] quickly lost the intense shine it had at night and turned into just a gray cutout hanging in the sky.

As you can see, he ends with the same metaphor that begins Book 1 in an epigraph – “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” I don’t really have much to say about this other than that it again mirrors the ending of “The Twins and the Sunken Continent.” There, too, he uses a new foreign environment (a sea bed) as a metaphor for how life will proceed. In 1Q84, the new world will be different; its moon may lack the shine from the night, but the passage still feels hopeful. Not completely negative at least. And that’s about all I can add without saying too much about the plot.

In terms of the translation, the definite/indefinite article before “new sun” forces a translator to make interesting decisions. The Japanese is: それが昇ったばかりの新しい太陽に照らされて、夜の深い輝きを急速に失い、空にかかったただの灰色の切り抜きに変わってすまうまで。 I went with “a” to imply that it’s a brand new day. Using “the” would feel more like rebirth of an old sun, which is also a nice image. I’ll be very curious to see how Phillip Gabriel renders this line. I wonder if he’ll leave it as a fragment or connect it with the previous sentence. If I have the energy/effort/time, I’ll try to go back through these posts and compare my versions with the official translation. Should be fun.

Hooray for Murakami Fest! I’m running out of ideas for Murakami translation themes, so you’ll have to give me your thoughts about what I should do next year. I have a couple of things I’ve been working on, but nothing set in stone yet. I’m pretty happy with the way this year turned out, even though it was all off the cuff.


With the goal of stirring up even more interest in Murakami between now and mid-October, when the Nobel Prizes are announced, I will post a small piece of Murakami translation once a week from now until the announcement. You can see the other entries in this year’s series here: More DrawersPhone CallsMetaphors, Eight-year-olds, dude.

As promised, this week I want to take a look at Book 3. One of the interesting/strange things that Murakami does with Book 3 is to add an additional narrative perspective – the book suddenly starts with a chapter from the point of view of Ushikawa, a creepy messenger/errand boy for the cult in the novel.

The name Ushikawa might be familiar. I can’t believe I didn’t realize it sooner (as in, when I was writing one of my two reviews of the novel), but Ushikawa was also a character in The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. He sneaks into Toru Okada’s house in Chapter 13 of Book 3, he makes another house call in 16, and in 19 they talk on the phone.

And that’s the last we see of him for the entire novel.

He’s nothing more than a device that Murakami uses to advance the plot: he delivers a threatening message from Noboru Wataya – cut ties with “the Hanging House,” the residence where Cinnamon and Nutmeg are set up – which gradually becomes less and less threatening until eventually he just helps Toru get in touch with Kumiko via computer and disappears. We get long blocks of dialog that show what a poor bastard he is, but as best I can tell, he doesn’t really serve any other purpose in the novel.

He’s described similarly in both novels – disheveled, bald, an uncanny ability to track down information, clearly a lackey for someone powerful – but he doesn’t appear to be the exact same character. Just the same trope.

In 1Q84, too, Ushikawa is one sad bastard. In Book 2, he’s again used mostly as a plot device, but because he’s the narrative point of view in Book 3, we get extended information about how sad his life is in Book 3, so much so that I even started to feel bad for him – of all Murakami’s characters, he seems to get a raw deal.

And Murakami seems to revel in making him more and more miserable. I noted one passage in particular on 202. Ushikawa is riding around Tokyo on trains, hunting down information about Tengo and Aomame, and as he does, he’s thinking through the different possible connections in his head (connections that we as readers have known for hundreds of pages). Here’s the part just before a space break:

Ushikawa thought about this the entire time he was on the train from Ichikawa to Tsudanuma. He grimaced and sighed and stared off into space, probably without even realizing it. The primary school student sitting across from him was watching him with a strange look on her face. Out of embarrassment he smiled and rubbed the top of his lopsided bald head with his palm. However, that just seemed to scare the girl. She stood up all of the sudden right before Nishifunabashi Station and quickly ran off somewhere.

I felt like this was a bit overkill. We know he’s ugly. We know he’s a sad bastard. Does he really have to frighten primary school kids? Oh well. I guess that’s Ushikawa for ya.

One little language nugget of note: “lopsided” is いびつ in Japanese, and it appears over and over again in the novel. It’s one of those words that Murakami fixates on and uses a lot like 胡散臭い, 具わっている, and 惹かれる. He uses it a lot to describe the new moon that appears in the 1Q84 alternate reality: the new moon is smaller and more lopsided. I probably would have used a word like warped or irregular, but a teaser from Knopf shows that Rubin went with lopsided, which is a far superior choice. So I borrowed that for this week’s translation.