The Pool

It’s been a few weeks since the end of my Nobel series and the announcement, so I think I’m ready to start up again with my “Save the Blog!” project (which is basically the same as the Nobel project) and continue taking a close look at the translation of Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Conveniently for me, all of the Nobel series posts featured far more dramatic changes: Chapter 12 “A Map of the End of the World” has no major cuts by either Birnbaum in translation or by Murakami in the 1990. So this will be a very short post.

In Chapter 12, Boku starts to explore the Town and make a map. He reads a few dreams, asks the Librarian about the Pool, and then, despite her hesitancy, they visit the Pool.

I’ll take a close look at just one quick paragraph. Here is Birnbaum’s translation of the moment when Boku and the Librarian come to the Pool:

We continue for several minutes over the thicketed moor, guided only by the eerie call of the Pool, when suddenly a vista opens up before us. The wilderness stops and a meadow spreads flat out. The River emerges from the Gorge to the right, then widens as it flows toward where we stand. From the final bend at the edge of the meadow, the water appears to slow and back up, turning a deep sapphire blue, swelling like a snake digesting a small animal. This is the Pool.

And the original:

起伏の多い薮の中を水音に導かれるように十分ばかり進んだどころで、突然眺望が開けた。長い薮地はそこで終わり、平坦な草原が川に沿って我々の前に広がっていた。右手には川が削りとった深い谷が見えた。谷を抜けた流れは川幅を広げながら薮を抜け、そして我々の立った草原へと至っていた。草原の入口近くにある最後のカーブを曲ったところから川は急に淀みはじめ、不吉なかんじのする深い青へと色を変えながらゆっくりと進み、先の方でまるで小動物を呑みこんだ蛇のようにふくらんで、そこに巨大なたまりを作り出していた。僕は川沿いにそのたまりの方へと歩いていった。

Birnbaum compresses as always, especially when Murakami gets a little over specific with the description, but I’m most interested in the way he handles the final line. Birnbaum ends dramatically, boldly announcing “This is the Pool.” It follows the creepy snake image well. But it’s not what Murakami has in the original, which is closer to: “I walk along the river in the direction of the Pool.”

I’m not sure how to feel about translations like this. Any thoughts, readers? Is this too far? Do you think the translation benefits from Birnbaum’s work? Or would it have been just as fine, perhaps even more “toned down” and “moody,” the way that Murakami has it?

Watermelons

With the goal of stirring up even more interest in Murakami between now and the next week (or two), 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 Librarian, Old Man

melon

Differences between the original and translation of Chapter 11 are apparent from the chapter title: in English, the title is “Dressing, Watermelon, Chaos” and the version in the Complete Works is 「着衣、混沌」. The 1985 version, which is「着衣、西瓜、混沌」, quickly shows that the changes here are being made by Murakami and not Birnbaum.

This was another short installment, so it was easy to locate those changes. In this chapter, the librarian gets dressed (very sensually, as Watashi admires from the corner of his eye) and then leaves with the library books after giving him her number. Watashi then preps for shuffling the data, explains the shuffling process, and starts shuffling.

Shuffling required scientists to extract the “core” of his consciousness in the form of a “drama.” The title of Watashi’s interior drama is “End of the World,” but they didn’t tell him anything about the drama. He just calls it up, putting himself in a dream state, shuffles the data, and then turns it off, remembering nothing after.

First I’ll look at the way that Birnbaum translated the 1985 version, and then I’ll show you what Murakami did differently in 1990. Without further ado, the 1985 version followed by its translation, which is very accurate and makes very few changes/cuts:

「それを知ることは君には不必要なのだ」と彼らは私に説明してくれた。「何故なら無意識性ほど正確なものはこの世にないからだ。ある程度の年齢——我々は用心深く計算してそれを二十八歳と設定しているわけだが——に達すると人間の意識の総体というものはまず変化しない。我々が一般に意識の変革と呼称しているものは、脳全体の働きからすればとるにたらない表層的な誤差にすぎない。だからこの〈世界の終わり〉という君の意識の核は、君が息をひきとるまで変わることなく正確に君の意識の核として機能するのだ。ここまではわかる?」

「わかります」と私は言った。

「あらゆる種類の理論・分析は、いわば短い針先で西瓜を分割しようとしているようなものだ。彼らは皮にしるしをつけることはできるが、果肉にまでは永遠に到達することはできない。だからこそ我々は皮と果肉とをはっきると分離しておく必要があるのだ。もっとも世間には皮ばかりかじって喜んでいるような変わった手合もいるがね」

「要するに」と彼らはつづけた。「我々は君のパス・ドラマを永遠に君自身の意識の表層的な揺り動かしから保護しておかなくてはならんのだ。もし我々が君に〈世界の終わり〉とはこうこうこういうものだと内容を教えてしまったとする。つまり西瓜の皮をむいてやるようなものだな。そうすると君は間違いなくそれをいじりまわして改変してしまうだろう。ここはこうした方が良いとか、ここにこれをつけ加えようとしたりするんだ。そしてそんなことをしてしまえば、そのパス・ドラマとしての普遍性はあっという間に消滅して、シャフリングが成立しなくなってしまう」

「だから我々は君の西瓜にぶ厚い皮を与えたわけだ」とべつの一人が言った。「君はそれをコールして呼びだすことができる。なぜならそれは要するに君自身であるわけだからな。しかし君はそれを知ることはできない。すべてはカオスの海の中で行われる。つまり君は手ぶらでカオスの海に潜り、手ぶらでそこからでてくるわけだ。私の言っていることはわかるかな?」

「わかると思います」と私は言った。

「もうひとつの問題はこういうことだ」と彼らは言った。「人は自らの意識の核を明確に知るべきだろうか?」

「わかりません」と私は答えた。

「我々にもわからない」と彼らは言った。「これはいわば科学を超えた問題だな。ロス・アラモスで原爆を開発した科学者たちがぶちあたったのと同種の問題だ

たぶんロス・アラモスよりはもっと重大な問題だな」と一人が言った。「経験的に言って、そう結論せざるを得ないんだ。そんなわけで、これはある意味ではきわめて危険な実験であるとも言える」

「実験?」と私は言った。

「実験」と彼らは言った。「それ以上のことを君に教えるわけにはいかないんだ。申しわけないが」

それから彼らは私にシャッフルの方法を教えてくれた。一人きりでやること、夜中にやること、満腹状態でもなく空腹でもないこと。

“There is no need for you to know more. The unconscious goes about its business better than you’ll ever be able to. After a certain age—our calculations put it at twenty-eight years—human beings rarely experience alterations in the overall configuration of their consciousness. What is commonly referred to as self-improvement or conscious change hardly even scratches the surface. Your ‘End of the World’ core consciousness will continue to function, unaffected, until you take your last breath. Understand this far?”

“I understand,” I said.

“All efforts of reason and analysis are, in a word, like trying to slice through a watermelon with sewing needles. They may leave marks on the outer rind, but the fruity pulp will remain perpetually out of reach. Hence, we separate the rind from the pulp. Of course, there are idle souls out there who seem to enjoy just nibbling away on the rind.

“In view of all contingencies,” they went on, “we must protect your password-drama, isolating it from any superficial turbulence, the tides of your outer consciousness. Suppose we were to say to you, your End of the World is inhered with such, such, and such elements. It would be like peeling away the rind of the watermelon for you. The temptation would be irresistible: you would stick your fingers into the pulp and muck it up. And in no time, the hermetic extractability of our password-drama would be forfeited. Poof! You would no longer be able to shuffle.”

“That’s why we’re giving you back your watermelon with an extra thick rind,” one scientist interjected. “You can call up the drama, because it is your own self, after all. But you can never know its contents. It transpires in a sea of chaos into which you submerge empty-handed and from which you resurface empty-handed. Do you follow?”

“I believe so,” I said.

“One more point,” they intoned in solemn chorus. “Properly speaking, should any individual ever have exact, clear knowledge of his own core consciousness?”

“I wouldn’t know,” I said.

“Nor would we,” said the scientists. “Such questions are, as they say, beyond science. [They are the same questions the scientists at Los Alamos ran into.]”

“[They might even be more important than the problems at Los Alamos.] Speaking from experience, we cannot conclude otherwise,” admitted one. “So in this sense, this is an extremely sensitive experiment.”

“Experiment?” I recoiled.

“Yes, experiment,” echoed the chorus. “We cannot tell you any more than this.”

Then they instructed me on how to shuffle: Do it alone, preferably at night, on neither a full nor empty stomach. …

As you can see, Birnbaum’s translation is quite accurate. He cuts the space break, and yes, he’s colorful here and there, notably with the “Poof!” but there’s really not much to complain about. The only lines he cuts completely are those referring to the development of the atom bomb by scientists in Los Alamos (which I’ve bolded in Japanese and bolded/bracketed in English).

The one thing worth noting is that Birnbaum’s translation makes the text slightly more Kafkaesque than the original. Murakami uses 彼ら (they) as a speaker tag in the original, and he occasionally picks out a single scientist to interrupt this plural subject, but in translation Birnbaum decides to be more explicit and dramatic by translating this as “they intoned in solemn chorus.” I really like this rendering. It adds a hint of fear to the proceedings, which is reflected in the Japanese dialogue in the way that the dialogue mirrors the dialogue of the old man/scientist/grandpa slightly with its んだs and がねs: these scientists are just a little off, and Birnbaum hints at that nicely with the ornamented speaker tag.

In the Complete Works version, this is how the passage looks:

「それを知ることは君には不必要なのだ」と彼らは私に説明してくれた。「君はそれを必要に応じてコールして呼びだすことができる。なぜならその〈世界の終わり〉というパス・ドラマは要するに君自身であるわけだからな。しかし君はその内容を知ることはできない。すべてはカオスの海の中で行われる。つまり君は手ぶらでカオスの海に潜り、手ぶらでそこからでてくるわけだ。私の言っていることはわかるかな?」

「わかると思います」と私は言った。

それから彼らは私にシャッフルの方法を教えてくれた。一人きりでやること、夜中にやること、満腹状態でもなく空腹でもないこと。

“There is no need for you to know more. You can call up the drama, because it is your own self, after all. But you can never know its contents. It transpires in a sea of chaos into which you submerge empty-handed and from which you resurface empty-handed. Do you follow?”

“I believe so,” I said.

Then they instructed me on how to shuffle: Do it alone, preferably at night, on neither a full nor empty stomach. …

Significantly shorter. All the sections about the development of the conscious mind are gone. So is the watermelon metaphor. As is the ominous question SHOULD WE HAVE TRUE SELF KNOWLEDGE.

I really don’t like these cuts and I’m not sure what Murakami was going for. It feels like he sterilized the text to a certain extent, maybe to speed it up, maybe because he didn’t feel like the section ties in with the main themes of the book. There’s no question that the result is less funny, although I have to admit that Birnbaum’s translation probably makes it sillier than the original. Still, the “Experiment?!” line on its own is pretty funny, and it gets cut.

Which makes me wonder if that’s why Murakami cut it – not because it was funny but because it might ruin the believability of the plot a little. If Watashi had some idea that shuffling wasn’t anything more than a complex experiment poking around in his melon, as it were, would he really have participated? We know he’s a pretty easy-going “for convenience-sake” kind of guy – this has been well established since the very first chapter, which also introduced watermelon as a metaphor for his brain – but even he has his limits. Maybe that’s what Murakami was going after here.

Thus concludes Murakami Fest 2013! The Nobel Committee has not yet revealed the date of the Literature announcement, but it will likely be at some point next week or the week after, in the middle of the other prize announcements. I’ll probably continue to read Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, so check back for more blog posts.

Old Man

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 Colonel, The Librarian

fall

Chapter 10 is mercifully short, which I appreciate (and I’m sure you appreciate) after last week’s massive post. Unfortunately this leaves us very little to look at in terms of cuts. In fact, I’ll be looking at a single line. Not surprisingly, the line is the last line in the chapter, which, we have seen again and again, is frequent bait for cuts by Birnbaum (or his editor). This time, however, it’s just a change.

In Chapter 10, Boku visits the Gatekeeper to ask if he can visit his shadow. The Gatekeeper and the shadow are working in the yard to fix up a wagon, so Boku waits in the Gatehouse (Birnbaum’s great translation of 門番小屋). The shadow comes in to get nails, quickly asks Boku to make a map of the End of the World, and leaves. The Gatekeeper later refuses Boku’s request and tells him he must gut it out until the strange period of settling passes. Boku walks home and on the way stops on the bridge to gaze down at the river. He often walks down to the sandbar to feed the beasts.

And here is Birnbaum’s wonderful rendering of the last paragraph:

As the autumn deepens, the fathomless lakes of their eyes assume an ever more sorrowful hue. The leaves turn color, the grasses wither; the beasts sense the advance of a long, hungry season. And bowing to their vision, I too know a sadness.

Here is the Japanese original:

秋が深まるにつれ、深い湖を思わせるような彼らの目は、哀しみの色を次第に増やしていった。樹木は葉の色を変え、草は枯れ、長く辛い飢えの季節が迫りきていることを彼らに教えていた。そしてそれは老人が予言したように、僕にとってもおそらく長く辛い季節になるはずだった。

I particularly like Birnbaum’s translation of 教えていた because I think many (or maybe just I) would have been tempted to translate that more awkwardly. “Sense” works perfectly.

If you can read the Japanese, though, it’s clear that the last line is heavily altered. I won’t try to improve upon the rest of the paragraph, so I’ll just swap out the last line for one that more closely follows the Japanese:

As the autumn deepens, the fathomless lakes of their eyes assume an ever more sorrowful hue. The leaves turn color, the grasses wither; the beasts sense the advance of a long, hungry season. As the old man forbade, it will likely be a long, hungry season for me as well.

The old man here is the Colonel, but it’s interesting that Birnbaum cuts the reference completely. This got me thinking a little…

We have a 老人 in each section of the narrative – the Colonel and the scientist – but Birnbaum only uses it to refer to the scientist. Murakami alternates between 大佐 (colonel) and 老人 (old man) for the Colonel, but Birnbaum keeps it strictly as the former. Just another subtle way the two narratives of the story are linked, which doesn’t completely translate in English. The two characters don’t really have the same role in each section, as will become clear later in the book, but I think Murakami has set them in parallel more closely in Japanese by referring to both as “old man.”

Make sure you also check out my update on last week’s post. Matt from No-Sword caught a miss on my part: I had no idea that オウム could mean anything other than a crazy religious cult or the noise for a chant.

The Librarian – Updated

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 Women, Coffee With the Colonel

cocktail

Chapter 9 “Appetite, Disappointment, Leningrad” is one of the most fascinating chapters in the book so far because of the work that Birnbaum does in translation and the changes that Murakami makes for the Complete Works.

In this chapter, the librarian comes in, Watashi cooks a nice dinner spread for her, and she eats everything he puts in front of her (thanks to her gastric dilation). Then they drink, listen to records, and, eventually, are unable to have sex when Watashi can’t get an erection. He blames it on thinking about all the food she just ate but doesn’t say that to her. So instead, they have a few more drinks and she reads to him from the books on unicorns she brought over for him.

Before we look closely at the text, it’s important to note that Birnbaum does some serious adaptation in this chapter. In Japanese, the second half of the chapter is a dialogue between Watashi and the Librarian: all the information about unicorns is given within quotation marks, and Watashi mostly listens but occasionally butts in with a question or comment.

In English, Birnbaum combines their dialogue together and renders it all in exposition provided by the narrator Watashi. This requires a lot of cuts of small lines, but he does do an impressive job of maintaining the tone, and he exits from the exposition on occasion to keep the best of the interactions between the two. Such as this one:

The skull next saw the light of day in 1935. Petrograd had since become Leningrad. Lenin was dead, Trotsky was in exile, and Stalin was in power. No one rode horses in Leningrad. The old stablemaster had sold half his premises, and in the remaining half he opened a small hockey goods shop.

*

“Hockey?” I dropped my jaw. In the Soviet thirties?”

“Don’t ask me. That’s just what I read. But who knows? Post-Revolution Leningrad was quite your modern grad. Maybe hockey was all the rage.” (101)

He cuts out of the unicorn information and back into reality in his bedroom with a space break and switches back into dialogue: a very creative technique to help make all this conveyance of information seem less laborious. Because let’s face it – Murakami is known for devoting huge chunks of his novels to the latest classical musician he’s been listening to or Russian novel he’s been reading. This is something he did even in his early books. In this book and in A Wild Sheep Chase, however, he manages to contain himself a little and tie in the all the excess information with the plot and theme. Still, Birnbaum improves on the original.

And now let’s take a look at some of the cuts. Here’s how the official translation looks with them in bed:

After dessert, we’d had another round of bourbon and beer, listened to a few records, then snuggled into bed. And like I said, I didn’t get an erection.

Her naked body fit perfectly next to mine. She lay there stroking my chest. “It happens to everyone. You shouldn’t get so worked up over it.” (92)

There is, however, a section cut from between these two paragraphs. I’ll use Birnbaum’s translations where applicable. The translation follows immediately in the blockquote. Here’s the version from the original 1985 text:

我々はデザートのあとでウィスキーとビールを飲みながらレコードを二枚か三枚聴き、それからベッドにもぐりこんだのだ。これまでにけっこういろんな女の子と寝てきたが、図書館員と寝るのははじめてだった。そしてまたそれほど簡単に女の子と性的関係に入ることができたのもはじめてだった。たぶんそれは私が夕食をごちそうしたせいだと思う。でも結局、さっきも言ったように、私のペニスはまったく勃起しなかった。胃がイルカのおなかみたいに膨らんでいるような気がして、どうしても下腹部に力が入らないのだ。

彼女は裸の体をぴったりと私のわきにつけ、中指で私の胸のまん中を十センチくらい何度も上下させた。「こういうのって、誰にでもたまにはあることなんだから、必要以上に悩んじゃ駄目よ」(156)

After dessert, we’d had another round of bourbon and beer, listened to a few records, then snuggled into bed. I’ve slept with my fair share of girls, but it was my first time sleeping with a librarian. It was also the first time I’d gotten into a sexual relationship with a girl so easily. I thought it was probably because I’d made her dinner. But in the end, as I said, I couldn’t get an erection. I just couldn’t get my loins going with the image of her belly swollen like dolphin in my head.

Her naked body fit perfectly next to mine. She lay there stroking my chest. “It happens to everyone. You shouldn’t get so worked up over it.”

And now here’s the 1990 Complete Works adjustments:

我々はデザートのあとでウィスキーとビールを飲みながらレコードを二枚か三枚聴き、それからベッドにもぐりこんだのだ。これまでにけっこういろんな女の子と寝てきたが、図書館員と寝るのははじめてだった。たぶんそれは私が夕食をごちそうしたせいだと思う。でも結局、さっきも言ったように、私のペニスはまったく勃起しなかった。胃袋に呑みこまれ消化されつつある食品のことを思うと、どうしても下腹部に力が入らないのだ。

彼女は裸の体をぴったりと私のわきにつけ、中指で私の胸のまん中を十センチくらい何度も上下させた。「こういうのって、誰にでもたまにはあることなんだから、必要以上に悩んじゃ駄目よ」(129)

After dessert, we’d had another round of bourbon and beer, listened to a few records, then snuggled into bed. I’ve slept with my fair share of girls, but it was my first time sleeping with a librarian. I thought it was probably because I’d made her dinner. But in the end, as I said, I couldn’t get an erection. I just couldn’t get my loins going when I thought about all the food that was being digested in her stomach.

Her naked body fit perfectly next to mine. She lay there stroking my chest. “It happens to everyone. You shouldn’t get so worked up over it.”

Birnbaum chose not to include the passage entirely, but it’s also clear that Murakami made minor adjustments in his own version. Really minor. He cuts the dolphin line, which is slightly more grotesque and mean than the image of food digesting, and he cuts the line about the librarian being the easiest girl he ever had – in both cases it makes her look better and the narrator seem nicer. Perhaps Murakami was feeling a little self conscious about the line and made the cuts for that reason.

Murakami further adjusts the characterization of Watashi later in the chapter, unfortunately by cutting some very funny sections. Take, for example, this passage from the 1985 version:

彼女が全裸でベッドを出て、キッチンでウォッカ・トニックを作っているあいだに、私は『ティーチ・ミー・トゥナイト』の入ったジョニー・マティスのレコードをプレイヤーに載せ、ベッドに戻って小さな声で合唱した。私と私のやわらかなペニスとジョニー・マティスと。 (161)

Very funny and typical Murakami. Here is Birnbaum’s acurrate rendering:

She got out of bed and walked naked to the kitchen to mix two vodka tonics. While she did that, I put on my favorite Johnny Mathis album. The one with Teach Me Tonight. Then I hummed my way back to bed. Me and my limp penis and Johnny Mathis. (94)

For some reason, Murakami decides to do away with most of this section! Here’s the 1990 version:

彼女が全裸でベッドを出て、キッチンで二人分のウォッカ・トニックを作り、それを持ってベッドに戻ってきた。 (132)

She got out of bed totally naked, made two vodka tonics in the kitchen, and brought them back to bed.

I don’t get it. We lose the interiority and all of Watashi’s personality. Maybe Murakami didn’t want him to seem so easy-going.

There’s one other spot where he makes edits to adjust Watashi’s character slightly. Here’s the passage from Birnbaum:

“When was the last time you slept with someone?” she asked.

“Maybe two weeks ago,” I said.

“And that time, everything went okay?”

“Of course,” I said. Was my sex life to be questioned by everyone these days?

“Your girlfriend?”

“A call girl.”

“A call girl? Don’t you feel, how shall I put it, guilt?”

“Well…no.”

“And nothing…since then?”

What was this cross-examination? “No,” I said. “I’ve been so busy with work, I haven’t had time to pick up my dry-cleaning, much less wank.” (92)

You can see from the 1985 edition that Birnbaum has made a few adjustments here:

「この前女の子と寝たのはいつ?」と彼女が訊いた。

私は記憶の箱のふたを開けて、その中をしばらくもそもそとまさぐってみた。「二週間前だな、たしか」と私は言った。

「そのときはうまくいったのね?」

「もちろん」と私は言った。ここのところ毎日のように誰かに性生活についての質問をされているような気がする。あるいはそういうのが世間で今はやっているのかもしれない。

「誰のやったの?」

「コールガール。電話して呼ぶんだ」

「そういう種類の女の人と寝ることについてそのとき何か、そうねえ、罪悪感のようなものは感じなかった?」

「女の人じゃない」と私は訂正した。「女の子、二十か二十一だよ。罪悪感なんてべつにないよ。さっぱりしててあとくされもないしさ。それにはじめてコールガールと寝たわけでもない」

「そのあとマスターベーションした?」

「しない」と私は言った。そのあと私はとても仕事が忙しくて、今日までクリーニングに出したままの大事な上着をとりに行く暇もなかったのだ。マスターベーションなんてするわけがない。 (157-158)

“When was the last time you slept with a girl?” she asked.

I pried open my brain and, for a moment, rummaged around the memories inside. “Two weeks ago, roundabouts,” I said.

“And it went okay that time?”

“Of course,” I said. It felt like someone was asking me about my sex life every damn day these days. Or maybe that’s what the world’s come to.

“Who did you sleep with?”

“A call girl. I called one up.”

“Don’t you ever feel, how should I put it, guilty when you sleep with women like that?”

“They aren’t women,” I corrected her. “They’re girls – twenty or twenty-one. I don’t feel guilty at all. It feels great, and there’s nothing to worry about after. And it wasn’t like it was my first time sleeping with a call girl.”

“Did you masturbate after that at all?”

“Nope,” I said. After that I’d been so busy with work that I hadn’t even had time to pick up one of my best jackets at the cleaners until today. So no, I hadn’t jerked off.

Birnbaum cuts Watashi’s “correction,” which seems perhaps a bit mysognistic. This eases up a little on the harshness of the character. As you can see, Murakami makes similar alterations to the 1990 version:

「この前女の子と寝たのはいつ?」と彼女が訊いた。

私は記憶の箱のふたを開けて、その中をしばらくもそもそとまさぐってみた。「二週間前だな、たしか」と私は言った。

「そのときはうまくいったのね?」

「もちろん」と私は言った。ここのところ毎日のように誰かに性生活についての質問をされているような気がする。あるいはそういうのが世間で今はやっているのかもしれない。

「誰のやったの?」

「コールガール。電話して呼ぶんだ」

「そういう種類の女の人と寝ることについてそのとき何か、そうねえ、罪悪感のようなものは感じなかった?」

「とくに感じなかったと思うけれど」と私は言った。

「そのあとマスターベーションした?」

「しない」と私は言った。そのあと私はとても仕事が忙しくて、今日までクリーニングに出したままの大事な上着をとりに行く暇もなかったのだ。マスターベーションなんてするわけがない。 (129-130)

“When was the last time you slept with a girl?” she asked.

I pried open my brain and, for a moment, rummaged around the memories inside. “Two weeks ago, roundabouts,” I said.

“And it went okay that time?”

“Of course,” I said. It felt like someone was asking me about my sex life every damn day these days. Or maybe that’s what the world’s come to.

“Who did you sleep with?”

“A call girl. I called one up.”

“Don’t you ever feel, how should I put it, guilty when you sleep with women like that?”

“No, not really,” I said.

“Did you masturbate after that at all?”

“Nope,” I said. After that I’d been so busy with work that I hadn’t even had time to pick up one of my best jackets at the cleaners until today. So no, I hadn’t jerked off.

This version of Watashi isn’t quite as defensive about the whole call girl thing. When we take all of these passages together, it feels like Murakami is making this narrator a little bit more sympathetic than in the first edition.

However, the biggest change comes to Murakami’s characterization of the librarian in the section immediately before she begins to read to him. She begins to ask him all sorts of questions about who he is and what he does because she’s noticed the switchblade he had in his shorts for protection when opening the door. When she points this out to him, he explains his line of work. Here’s the official translation:

“Oh,” I said, “in my line of work, you can’t be too careful. I process data. Biotechnology, that sort of thing. Corporate interests involved. Lately there’s been a lot of data piracy.”

She didn’t swallow a word of it. “Why don’t we deal with our unicorn friends. That was your original purpose in calling me over here, wasn’t it?” (94)

There isn’t too much different in the 1990 Complete Works version:

「生物学関係のデータ処理をしているんだ。一種のバイオテクノロジーで、企業利益がからんでいるものだからね。それで用心をしてるんだ。最近はデータの奪いあいも物騒になってきたもんでね」

「ふうん」と彼女は今ひとつ納得しかねるような顔つきで言った。「まあいいわ。とにかく一角獣の話をしましょう。そもそもはそれが私を呼んだ本来の目的だったんでしょう?」 (133)

“I process biological data. It involves biotechnology and corporate profits, so I’ve gotta look after myself. Lately everyone is up in arms about data theft.”

“Hmm,” she said, looking unconvinced. “Whatevs. Let’s talk about unicorns. That’s why you called me over here in the first place, right?”

So basically, Birnbaum provides an accurate translation. All the pieces are accounted for, if you compare it with the 1990 Complete Works edition.

However, the 1985 version is drastically different, which you’ll notice from sheer length alone:

「生物学関係のデータ処理をしているんだ。一種のバイオテクノロジーで、企業利益がからんでいるものだからね。それで用心をしてるんだ。最近はデータの奪いあいも物騒になってきたもんでね」

「ふうん」と彼女は今ひとつ納得しかねるような顔つきで言った。

「君だってコンピューターを操作しているけれど、とてもコンピューター関係者には見えないぜ」と私は言った。

彼女は指の先でしばらくこつこつと前歯を叩いていた。「だって私の場合は、ほら、完全な実務レベルだもの。末端を処理しているだけ。蔵書のタイトルを項目べつにインプットして、リファレンスのために呼びだしたり、利用状況を調べたり、その程度のことね。もちろん計算も出来るけど……。大学を出てから二年間コンピューター操作専門の学校にかよったの」

「君が図書館で使ってるのはどんなコンピューター?」

彼女はコンピューターの型番を教えてくれた。最近型の中級オフィス・コンピューターだが、性能は見かけよりずっと優れていて、使い方次第ではかなり高度な計算をすることもできる。私も一度だけ使ったことがある。

私が目を閉じてコンピューターのことを考えているあいだに、彼女が新しいウォッカ・トニックをふたつ作って持ってきた。それで我々はまた二人並んで枕にもたれ、二杯めのウォッカ・トニックをすすった。レコードが終わるとフル・オートマティックのプレイヤーの針が戻り、ジョニー・マティスのLPをもう一度頭から演奏しなおした。それで私はまた「空は大きな黒板で―(ザ・スカイ・ザ・ブラックボード)」と口ずさむことになった。

「ねえ、私たち似合いだと思わない?」と彼女が私に言った。彼女のウォッカ・トニックのグラスの底がときどき私の腹に触れてひやりとした。

「似合い?」と私はききかえした。

「だってあなたは三十五だし、私は二十九だし、ちょうどいい歳だと思わない?」

「ちょうどいい歳?」と私は繰りかえした。彼女のオウム型反復がすっかり私の方に移ってしまったようだった。

「これくらいの歳になれば、お互いちゃんといろんなことも心得てるし、どちらもひとり身だし、私たち二人でけっこううまくやれるんじゃないかしら。私はあなたの生活に干渉しないし、私は私なりにやるし……私のこと嫌い?」

「そんなことないさ、もちろん」と私は言った。「君は胃拡張だし、こちらはインポテントだし、似合いかもしれない」

彼女は笑って手をのばし、私のやわらかいペニスをそっとつかんだ。ウォッカ・トニックのグラスを持っていた方の手だったので、とびあがりそうなくらい冷たかった。

「あなたのはすぐになおるわ」と彼女は私の耳もとで囁いた。「ちゃんとなおしてあげる。でもべつに急いでなおさなくてもいいのよ。私の生活は性欲よりはむしろ食欲を中心にまわっているようなものだから、それはそれでかまわないの。セックスというのは、私にとってはよくできたデザート程度のものなの。あればあるにこしたことないけれど、なくてもそれはそれでべつにかまわないの。それ以外のことがある程度満足できればね」

「デザート」と私はまた反復した。

「デザート」と彼女も繰りかえした。「でもそのことについてはまた今度キチンと教えてあげる。その前に一角獣の話をしましょう。そもそもそれが私を呼んだ本来の目的だったんでしょう?」 (162-165)

“I process biological data. It involves biotechnology and corporate profits, so I’ve gotta look after myself. Lately everyone is up in arms about data theft.”

“Hmm,” she said, looking unconvinced.

“I mean, you use computers,” I said, “but you don’t look like a computer whiz.”

She tapped on her front teeth with the tips of her fingers for a moment. “But in my case, come on, I only use it for purely practical reasons. I just control the interface. I input the titles in the stacks based on subject and then look things up for reference or to see if it’s checked out, that sort of thing. Of course I can do calculations with it…after college I went to a computer technical school for two years.”

“What kind of computer do you use at the library?”

She told me the model number of the computer. It was a recent mid-level office computer, but it had more horsepower than its appearances suggested, and given the right user, it could complete pretty high-level calculations. Even I’d only ever used one once.

I closed my eyes and thought about computers, and while I did, she refreshed our vodka tonics and came back. So we rested against the pillows, side by side, and sipped our second vodka tonics. When the record finished, the needle on the full automatic player returned to the beginning and played the Johnny Mathis record again from the start. Again I ended up singing along quietly: “The sky’s a blackboard high above you.”

“Say,” she said to me, “we match up pretty well, don’t you think?” The ice-cold bottom of her glass brushed against my stomach every now and then.

“Match-up?” I asked back.

“You’re 35, I’m 29 – our ages are just right, aren’t they?”

“A-ges are just right?” I repeated. Apparently I’d been infected with her om-like meditative repetitions repetitive parroting.

“Once you get to our age, both people have an understanding of different things. We’re also both single. We might work out well together. I won’t meddle in your life, and I have my own stuff going on… What? Do you not like me?”

“No, of course I do,” I said. “You’ve got gastric dilation, and I’m impotent. Maybe we do match up.”

She laughed and reached out to take my soft penis gently in her hand. It was the hand she’d been holding her vodka tonic with, so it was cold enough to make you jump out of bed.

“You’ll get better soon,” she whispered into my ear. “I’ll fix you. But there’s no rush. My life is centered around my appetite more so than my libido, so I don’t mind. Sex, to me, is like a really well made dessert. There’s nothing better when it’s good, but I’m fine without it as well. As long as everything else is more or less satisfying.”

“De-ssert,” I said, again in a chant.

“De-ssert,” she repeated. “I’ll tell you all about it next time. But first let’s talk about unicorns. That’s why you called me over here in the first place, right?”

This section is great! It’s hilarious and sweet in a very strange Murakami way. The two moments of cold connection between the two – strong sensory details – really stand out. And the way Watashi takes on some of her characteristics (her sing-song way of repeating short phrases that confuse her) kind of forecasts their connection. This section gives her more explicit agency in the relationship and makes her independent: she is interested in a relationship/connection but has her own things going on. Perhaps Murakami makes the cuts because she comes on a little too strong, and seems less independent because of that? Maybe without this section she’s the same independent character, reflected more in the aggressive way she comes in the apartment and inspects the food in the previous chapter and in the way she leaves in the next and is comfortable enough in her own skin to wait for the next time he cooks?

But there’s something very nice about Watashi being flipped upside down one more time. So far Watashi has emphasized how strange everything is going for him (soundlessness, being asked to shuffle, the crazy scientist and his granddaughter, a unicorn skull), and now on top of that he can’t get an erection. The one last element of surprise is the librarian’s attempts to start some sort of casual (but significant and long term?) relationship, which renders him incapable of doing anything other than repeating what’s already been said.

Great stuff.

This does bring a small chicken-egg question: Who made the cuts first – Birnbaum or Murakami? The Complete Works edition was published in November 1990, and the Kodansha International translation was published in 1991, which is remarkably close. You have to imagine that the manuscript for the translation was done well in advance, probably at some point in 1990, but when did Murakami turn in his final edits for the Complete Works? Was it after he’d seen suggested cuts by Birnbaum and his editor? Or did Birnbaum have access to both the original manuscript and the edited one that Murakami was preparing for the Complete Works?

Very interesting stuff. I don’t think I have the answers yet.

Update – 2013.9.28

A small translation update courtesy of Matt from No-Sword. Sez Matt:

It may be that I’m too eager to discount the possibility of wordplay, but I don’t think “オウム型反復” really means “om-like meditative repetitions”. It’s definitely a reference to “オウム返し”, also spelled “鸚鵡返し”, i.e. parroting. (Interestingly, not a calque from English but parallel evolution — it’s been in use as a technical term in poetics since late Heian times.)

I knew about オウム. And about オウム. But not about オウム. Just goes to show that you should always search a bit deeper when you’re uncertain about a term while translating. I’ve adjusted the translation above accordingly.

Coffee with the Colonel

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 Women

coffee

On to Chapter 8. We’re back in the End of the World, and we’re with Boku at his residence where he’s playing chess with the Colonel.

(On a ridiculous side note far too early in this blog post, I’ve always wondered if the Colonel was, by any chance, inspired or influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, notably El coronel no tiene quien le escriba, which is a story about a poor, retired colonel waiting to receive his pension.)

No major cuts, additions, or revisions in this section, but I will take a look at a few places where Birnbaum uses his standard operating procedure.

While they play chess, Boku asks the Colonel about the Town and the Gatekeeper and meeting up with his shadow. Eventually, he asks, “Yet what does he have to fear from me?” (84)

The Colonel pauses and then says, in Japanese:

「君と君の影くっついてしまうことを心配しているんだよ。そうなるとまたはじめからやりなおしということになるからね」(120)

Birnbaum’s translation:

“He fears that you and your shadow will become one again” (84)

He cuts the second sentence, which should be something like:

“If that happens, he’d have to start over again from the beginning.”

Not a very substantial line, but it is a little more ominous than the official translation allows. It might be the first implication that there’s a point to the separation process, a goal that the Gatekeeper has in mind. Sure, the Gatekeeper’s been gruff and basically wouldn’t admit that he’d let Boku see the shadow, but there was no threat of death to the shadow, or even of a finality of a process. An interesting little line to cut.

In the next section, Birnbaum has, I think, nicely rendered a metaphor that otherwise would have been awkward in English. Here’s the translation first:

“These next few weeks will be the hardest for you. It is the same as with broken bones. Until they set, you cannot do anything. Believe me” (85)

In Japanese, Murakami writes:

「ここのしばらくが君にとってはいちばん辛い時期なんだ。歯と同じさ。古い歯はなくなったが、新しい歯はまだはえてこない。私の意味することはわかるかね?」 (121)

My translation:

“The first little while will be the hardest part for you. Same as with teeth. Your old teeth have fallen out, but the new ones haven’t grown in yet. You get what I mean?”

I feel like a smoother translation might incorporate “baby teeth” somehow, but I’m not sure. At any rate, the broken bones metaphor feels much more natural, and while it may be more of a “localization” than a translation, I guess it works. What do y’all think?

And I have to point out cuts in the final paragraph of the chapter again. Birnbaum (or possibly his editor at Kodansha International?) makes strategic cuts to the final lines to create an in media res ending. Check out the translation:

“Good move,” says the Colonel. “Parapet guards against penetration and frees up the King. At the same time, it allows my Knight greater range.”

While the old officer contemplates his next move, I boil water for a new pot of coffee.

And the original text:

「上手い手だ」と老人は言った。「壁で角を防げるし、王も自由になった。しかしそれと同時に私の騎士も活用できるようにもなったな」

老人がじっくりと次の手を考えているあいだに僕は湯をわかし、新しいコーヒーをいれた。数多くの午後がこのように過ぎ去っていくのだ、と僕は思った。高い壁に囲まれたこの街の中で、僕に選びとることのできるものは殆ど何もないのだ。

You can see from the size of the second paragraph alone that there’s a lot of additional text in Japanese. I’ll add my translation of it to Birnbaum’s first line:

While the old officer contemplates his next move, I boil water for a new pot of coffee. Countless afternoons must pass this way, I think to myself. There is almost nothing for me to choose here in the Town surrounded by the tall Wall.

I was tempted to get fancy with that last line and write something like this: “There’s almost nothing arbitrary” or something like that. Or maybe “There’s nothing left for me to decide in the Town surrounded by the insurmountable Wall.” But no matter how you render it, nothing is quite as good as ending with Boku going for another pot of coffee. I’ve mentioned the importance of coffee in previous blog posts, and here again it serves to connect the two parts of the story and to suggest an endlessness to the End of the World.

And I guess one final interesting point in the section is Birnbaum’s decision to name the chess piece “Parapet” instead of “Wall.” I like the word choice, which sounds much more like a board game piece, but I don’t like how it dissociates it with the Wall that surrounds the town. It doesn’t matter as much in translation, however, since Birnbaum cuts the last line.

Some very interesting parts of a small chapter.

Sex With Fat Women

Now begins the Sixth 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.

For those of you who don’t know how this works, check out the past five years:

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 Sapporo, Gerry Mulligan, All Growns Up, Dance, Mountain Climbing

This year I’ll be even lazier than normal and just continue my close comparison of Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World with its translation. I’ll be looking at a chapter a week.

fat_woman

This week I’m looking at Chapter 7, which is in the Hard-boiled Wonderland section of the novel. Watashi gets home from his job laundering the data, has a sleep, and gets up the next day to do some shopping and consider his new gift from the old man: a unicorn skull (but he doesn’t know that yet). He checks out some books at the library, hits on the librarian, and then has her bring him books on unicorns after it’s clear that Semiotecs are scoping out his apartment and trying to get the skull.

I am a changed man after reading this chapter.

Why? you may ask. It is because, for the first time in my history of reading Murakami (14 years, now), I have DEFINITIVE PROOF that Murakami makes edits to his manuscripts for the Complete Works editions.

But first, let’s look at the translation. Birnbaum is up to his usual techniques in this chapter:

– He compresses where Murakami sometimes goes long. When Watashi returns from shopping, he details how he puts away all his groceries – wrap the fish and meat, put the coffee and bread in the freezer, put the beer in the fridge, throw out the old veggies, hang the clothes, etc. Birnbaum renders this “Back at the apartment, I put away all the groceries. I hung my clothes in the wardrobe” (76). Capiche?

– He cuts possibly unnecessary culture drops. Wilhelm Furtwängler anyone?

– He translates a little more cleverly than Murakami’s Japanese. For example, this passage:

ペーパー・クリップなんてどこにでもある。千円だせば一生使うぶんくらいのペーパー・クリップが買える。私は文房具屋に寄って千円ぶんのペーパー・クリップを買った。(110)

Birnbaum renders this:

Paperclips were indeed used by everyone. A thousand yen will buy you a lifetime supply. Sure, why not. I stopped into a stationery shop and bought myself a lifetime supply. (76)

It’s a neat translation but not precise with the 千円ぶん. He uses the transitive property to translate that as “lifetime supply” rather than “a thousand-yen worth.”

– He cleans up the end of the chapter. Rather than end with a short declarative statement by Watashi (私は喜んで道順を教えた; I gladly told her the way to my place), he ends it on a line of dialogue by the librarian: “I don’t know why I’m doing this,” she said, “but I don’t suppose you’d want to tell me the way to your place” (82). The translation is cleaner and much more suggestive.

This is Birnbaum being Birnbaum. This is why we love him.

I was prepared to write a very different entry because I found what I thought was a very large addition by Birnbaum to the manuscript. On page 73, after Watashi eats lunch at a restaurant, he drinks his post-meal coffee and thinks about the fat granddaughter, then about the last time he slept with a fat girl. I’ll give the section in its entirety here because it’s great:

The last time I’d slept with a fat female was the year of the Japanese Red Army shoot-out in Karuizawa. The woman had extraordinary thighs and hips. She was a bank teller who had always exchanged pleasantries with me over the counter. I knew her from the midriff up. We became friendly, went out for a drink once, and ended up sleeping together. Not until we were in bed did I notice that the lower half of her body was so demographically disproportionate. It was because she played table tennis all through school, she had me know, though I didn’t quite grasp the causal relationship. I didn’t know table tennis led to below-the-belt corporeality.

Still, her plumpness was charming. Resting an ear on her hip was like lying in a meadow on an idyllic spring afternoon, her thighs as soft as freshly aired futon, the rolling flow of her curves leading gracefully to her pubis. When I complimented her on her qualities, though, all she said was, “Oh yeah?” (73)

This passage is nowhere to be found in the Complete Works edition. I was prepared to discuss how this might have been an attempt by Birnbaum to give the book a little more fleshed out (excuse the pun) back story (excuse the pun) and connect it with a Japanese historical timeline. But just to be safe, I decided to pull out my paperback and hardback copies of the book (yes, I have, like, five copies of this book; it’s a sickness).

And there it was. The passage is complete in both of the pre-Complete Works versions. Birnbaum makes a few minor adjustments, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. All within his standard operating procedures. After this paragraph, however, Birnbaum does cut two smaller paragraphs that go on longer about sleeping with fat females.

For what it’s worth, here are those two extra paragraphs in Japanese:

もちろん全体がむらなく太った女と寝たこともある。全身が筋肉というがっしりした女とも寝たことがある。はじめの方はエレクトーンの教師で、あとの方はフリーのスタイリストだった。そんな風に太り方にもいろんな特徴があるのだ。

このようにたくさんの数の女と寝れば寝るほど、人間はどうも学術的になっていく傾向があるみたいだ。性交自体の喜びはそれにつれて少しずつ減退していく。性欲そのものにはもちろん学術性はない。しかし性欲がしかるべき水路をたどるとそこに性交という滝が生じ、その結果としてある類の学術性をたたえた滝つぼへと辿りつくのだ。そしてそのうちに、ちょうどパブロフの犬みたいに、性欲から直接滝つぼへという意識回路が生まれることになる。でもそれは結局、私が年をとりつつあるというだけのことなのかもしれない。

Here’s my translation:

I did also sleep with a fat woman whose body was more evenly distributed. And with a woman who was a total beefcake – muscles all over. The former taught electric organ, and the latter was a freelance stylist. So even being fat has its own little quirks.

The more women you sleep with, the more scientific you end up being about the whole thing. The pleasure of the act of intercourse itself starts to fade away. Of course there’s no science in sexual desire. However, when sexual desire follows its appropriate course, it produces the waterfall of sexual intercourse, and as a result, it does lead to a pool filled by a sort of science. And soon enough, just like Pavlov’s dog, it creates a consciousness circuit that leads directly to that pool. Or maybe it’s just that I’m getting old.

I’m not sure if I’m following Watashi’s thought process here, but that might be the point: maybe he’s supposed to sound like a guy who’s tired and confused, drinking a cup of coffee and thinking about women he slept with, possibly whom he had feelings for…or not.

The passage is more important than I initially suspected. I understand why Birnbaum cut it – Murakami does sound a bit rambly, as is his tendency – but it’s got the consciousness circuit and the waterfalls! As we all know (SPOILER ALERT!), Watashi will fall into an endless consciousness circuit because of his shuffling. And the book is heavy with waterfalls. There were waterfalls in Chapter 1 (Watashi thinks about Houdini going over Niagara Falls while trapped in the elevator), the waterfall covering the old man’s lab, and the sound of the Pool in the End of the World (which he notes is different from a waterfall). Not hugely important in terms of the overall book, but consistent enough to be called imagery and thematically significant.

Which makes me wonder why Murakami cut it in the Collected Edition. Did he think he sounded lazy or imprecise? Or did he cut the two other women because they aren’t as well developed characters, which then required the cutting of the other paragraphs?

Perhaps seeing Birnbaum’s cut in translation convinced Murakami to trim the entire section in the Collected Works manuscript? Or maybe he felt the reference to the Asama-Sansō incident was out of place when he compiled his Collected Works in the the early 90s. We may never know unless the Paris Review lets me interview the man.

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:

女はむっくりと太っていた。若くて美人なのだけれど、それにもかかわらず女は太っていた。若くて美しい女が太っているというのは、何かしら奇妙なものだった。私は彼女のうしろを歩きながら、彼女の首や腕や脚をずっと眺めていた。彼女の体には、まるで夜のあいだに大量の無音の雪が降ったみたいに、たっぷりと肉がついていた。(23)

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.

Dance

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:

「それでもし―もし、さっきの話から半ズボンの部分を抜きにして、一人の女性が旅先で自立を獲得するというだけの話だったとしたら、君はお母さんが君を捨てたことを許せただろうか?」

「駄目ね」と彼女は即座に答えた。「この話のポイントは半ズボンにあるのよ」

「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:

「待っていたよ」とそれは言った。「ずっと待ってた。中に入りなよ」

それが誰なのか目を開けなくてもわかった。

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?”

“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:

「どうすればいいんだろう、僕は?」

「あんたはこれまでにいろんなものを失ってきた。いろんな大事なものを失ってきた。それが誰のせいかというのは問題じゃない。問題はあんたがそれにくっつけたものにある。あんたは何かを失うたびに、そこに別の何かをくっつけて置いてきてしまったんだ。まるでしるしみたいにね。あんたはそんなことするべきじゃなかったんだ。あんたは自分のためにとっておくべき物までそこに置いてきてしまったんだな。そうすることによって、あんた自身も少しずつ磨り減ってきたんだ。どうしてかな?どうしてそんなことをしたんだろう?」

「わからないね」

「でも、たぶんそれはどうしようもないことだったんだろうね。何か運命のようなさ。なんというか、うまい言葉が思いつかないけど......」

「傾向」と僕は言ってみた。

「そう、それだよ。傾向。おいらは思うんだよ。もう一度人生をやりなおしても、あんたはきっとまた同じことをするだろうってね。それが傾向っていうもんだよ。そしてその傾向というものは、ある地点を超えると、もうもとに戻れなくなっちまうんだ。手遅れなんだ。そういうのはおいらにも何ともしてあげられない。おいらにできることはここの番をすることと、いろんなものを繋げることだけだよ。それ以上のことは何もできない。」

「どうすればいいんだろう、僕は?」と僕は前と同じ質問をもう一度してみた。

「さっきも言ったように、おいらも出来るだけのことはするよ。あんたが上手く繋がれるように、やってみる」と羊男は言った。「でもそれだけじゃ足りない。あんたも出来るだけのことをやらなくちゃいけない。じっと座ってものを考えているだけじゃ駄目なんだ。そんなことしてたって何処にもいけないんだ。わかるかい?」

「わかるよ」と僕は言った。「それで僕はいったいどうすればいいんだろう?」

「踊るんだよ」羊男は言った。「音楽の鳴っている間はとにかく踊り続けるんだ。おいらの言ってることはわかるかい?踊るんだ。踊り続けるんだ。何故踊るかなんて考えちゃいけない。意味なんてことは考えちゃいけない。意味なんてもともとないんだ。そんなことを考えだしたら足が停まる。一度足が停まったら、もうおいらには何ともしてあげられなくなってしまう。あんたの繋がりはもう何もなくなってしまう。永遠になくなってしまうんだよ。そうするとあんたはこっちの世界の中でしか生きていけなくなってしまう。どんどんこっちの世界に引き込まれてしまうんだ。だから足を停めちゃいけない。どれだけ馬鹿馬鹿しく思えても、そんなこと気にしちゃいけない。きちんとステップを踏んで踊り続けるんだよ。そして固まってしまったものを少しずつでもいいからほぐしていくんだよ。まだ手遅れになっていないものもあるはずだ。使えるものは全部使うんだよ。ベストを尽くすんだよ。怖がることは何もない。あんたはたしかに疲れている。疲れで、脅えている。誰にでもそういう時がある。何もかもが間違っているように感じられるんだ。だから足が停まってしまう」

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.