More Drawers

Now begins the Fourth Annual How to Japonese Murakami Fest!

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.

For those of you who don’t know how this works, check out the past three years:
Year One: Boobs, The Wind, Baseball, Lederhosen, Eels, Monkeys, and Doves
Year Two: Hotel Lobby Oysters, Condoms, Spinning Around and Around, 街・町, The Town and Its Uncertain Wall, A Short Piece on the Elephant that Crushes Heineken Cans
Year Three: “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Words and Weirs, The Library, Old Dreams, Saying Goodbye, Lastly

I thought I’d start with something recent. Murakami serialized another set of essays in AnAn over the past year, and the collected edition, Murakami Radio 2, came out in July. In the introduction to the collection, Murakami continues his recent obsession with the drawer metaphor for writing:

Novelists need lots of drawers inside their heads when they write novels. Little episodes, specific knowledge, vague memories, a personal worldview (or something along those lines) – all these come in handy quite often when writing novels. But if I go and dump all of that material into essays, I’m not able to use it in novels very well. So I’m stingy (as it were) and secret it away into drawers. However, when I finish a novel, there are always a couple drawers I didn’t end up using, and some of those can sometimes make good material for essays.

Drawer is 抽斗, which Murakami mentioned in his interview with Monkey Business before the publication of 1Q84. I noticed it a couple of times in 1Q84, and Matt over at No-Sword examined the origins of the character.

He goes on to compare the collection of essays to “oolong tea made by beer companies” – it’s not his main business, so he’s able to relax a bit (肩の力を抜いて) and write off the cuff.

This is quickly apparent, as the essays are all really short, have no connecting theme, and often start quite lightly with questions for the first sentence: Do you like to drive? Hello, runners – how are you doing? Are you the kind of person that angers quickly? Did you know there are some socks where the left and right are shaped differently? Do you read Dazai Osamu? Have you been to Ireland? Do you know about seal oil?

It’s really a shame that he doesn’t publish this material online – they feel much more like blog posts than essays (as he calls them), and he does have a history of publishing material online. Also, then it would have been free and not 1700 yen.

Speaking of writing off the cuff, for free, and on the Internet – that’s what I do! I’ve been busy with the start of classes and unable to prep my translations this year, so starting next week, I’ll be posting short translations that I pick randomly from 1Q84, an excerpt of which was just published in The New Yorker as the short story “Town of Cats” (arguably the best section of the book). I took notes, so hopefully I’ll be able to find some interesting passages. And if they suck, just remember it was all free.

11 thoughts on “More Drawers

  1. Oh wow, for a moment there I thought you meant that the translation in the New Yorker was yours. But I guess that can’t happen until you defeat Jay Rubin in single combat and receive the Matrix of Murakami Translatorship.

    Anyway, roll on Murakami Fest! But not Murakami’s Nobel Prize, because, never going to happen. There, I said it.

  2. Matt – Arg, did that modifier dangle too much? Oh, and I’m certain Rubin would best me in combat. I think this year my be Murakami’s best shot since 2006 – earthquake, tsunami, and English publication of 1Q84. Maybe his last shot? Who knows.

    Will – Thanks for the enthusiasm and interest! Definitely makes me want to do a better job.

  3. This may be the year, for the reasons you mention, but why would it be his last shot? I figure the older he gets the more his chances rise.

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  5. True. I guess I was just thinking about how 1Q84 will be received and wondering if that could affect his chances (I didn’t think it was very good). But odds are it will be received mostly favorably. Also, I feel like the Murakami popularity backlash has already happened and had its effect. So I guess as Rubin has said recently, it’s just a matter of time.

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