Warmth

Welcome to the Seventh Annual How to Japanese Murakami Fest!

With the goal of stirring up even more interest in Murakami between now and October, when the Nobel Prizes are announced, I will post a small piece of Murakami translation/analysis/revelation once a week from now until the announcement. You can see past entries in the series here:

Year One: BoobsThe WindBaseballLederhosenEels, Monkeys, and Doves
Year Two: Hotel Lobby OystersCondomsSpinning Around and Around街・町The Town and Its Uncertain WallA Short Piece on the Elephant that Crushes Heineken Cans
Year Three: “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Words and WeirsThe LibraryOld DreamsSaying GoodbyeLastly
Year Four: More DrawersPhone CallsMetaphorsEight-year-olds, dudeUshikawaLast Line
Year Five: Jurassic SapporoGerry MulliganAll Growns UpDanceMountain Climbing
Year Six: Sex With Fat WomenCoffee With the ColonelThe LibrarianOld Man, Watermelons

skull

From Bill Gracey‘s photostream.

Welcome back! As with last year, my laziness continues. I will pull the starter cord on the rusty (but trusty) lawnmower that is my close reading of Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and read through a few more chapters to examine changes that Murakami made for the Complete Works edition and adjustments made by Birnbaum (or his editor) (BOHE) in translation.

Chapter 18 “Dreamreading” is an appropriately short chapter for me to get back in the swing of things. It’s only five pages in the “Complete Works” edition and just a bit longer in the paperback. No major changes between those additions, and BOHE didn’t make many either.

There are a few minor adjustments in translation of course, as there are with any translation, and many of these would vary with any translator. But they’re still fun to look at.

In this chapter, Boku describes his frustrations with the dreamreading process, reads a few dreams, and discusses his frustrations with the Librarian. Her job is to wipe down the unicorn skulls—the dreams—after he has brought them from the stacks and to serve him coffee when he’s finished. Birnbaum renders this in a wonderfully clean translation:

I select a skull from the long shelves and carry it to the table. She helps me, first, to wipe off the dust with a dampened cloth. With meticulous care, she then polishes it with a dry cloth until the skull becomes like sleet. (183)

Murakami’s Japanese, however, is a bit more decorated:

僕は見わたす限りの書架に並んだ古い夢のうちのひとつを手にとり、そっと抱えるようにしてテーブルに運んだ。それから彼女に手伝ってもらってほんの少し水で湿らせた布でほころと汚れを拭きとり、次に乾いた布で時間をかけてごしごしと磨いた。(249-250)

I take one of the old dreams lined up endlessly along the shelves and, cradling it gently, bring it to the table. Then she helps me to wipe off the dust and dirt with a slightly dampened cloth, and then to carefully polish it with a dry cloth.

BOHE simplifies “lined up endlessly along the shelves” to “from the long shelves.” “(just) slightly dampened cloth” becomes “dampened.” And the “cradling” gets cut completely. But he adds in the description of the skull like “sleet.” The result is much sparser, simplified translation. This results in other great passages such as the following:

At the end of each session, she serves coffee. Occasionally we share biscuits or fruitbread she bakes at home. We do not speak as we eat. (184)

That line hit me when I was reading the translation.

There is one very small cut later in the chapter that I think does more damage to one of Murakami’s main themes in this book (and in many others): warmth (ぬくもり).

When they finish in the Library, Boku and the Librarian walk through the Town again:

As always, we sit on the narrow steps that lead from the Old Bridge down to the sandbar. A pale silver moon trembles on the face of the water. A wooden boat lashed to a post modulates the sound of the current. Sitting with her, I feel her warm against my arm. (185)

Again, a great translation, and I think he ends it on a nice point that shows more than tells. Murakami goes on for a few more sentences:

我々はいつものように旧橋のまん中にある中洲に下りるための階段に腰を下ろして、川を眺めていた。冷えびえとした白い月が小さなかけらとなって川面で小刻みに揺れていた。誰かが中洲の杭につないだ細い木のボートが水音を微妙に変えていた。階段の狭いステップの上に並んで座っているせいで僕は肩口にずっと彼女の体のぬくもりを感じていた。不思議なものだ、と僕は思った。人々は心というものをぬくもりにたとえる。しかし心と体のぬくもりのあいだには何の関係もないのだ。(252)

As always, we sit on the steps that descend from the middle of the Old Bridge to the sandbar and watch the river. The frigid, white moon breaks into small pieces and flutters on the surface of the water. Someone has tied up a flimsy, wooden boat to a post on the sandbar, and it slightly alters the sound of the water. Perhaps because we are sitting next to each other on the narrow steps, I feel her warmth in my shoulder the whole time. It’s strange, I think. People always think of the mind as warmth. But warmth of the mind and warmth of the body are completely unrelated.

I’ve maintained Birnbaum’s translation of kokoro here with “mind,” but this is one spot in particular where “heart” might make more sense. Birnbaum has made other modifications to keep his same spartan translation style (for example, moving the “narrow” to the first sentence in the paragraph from the fourth), but he just cuts the final three sentences completely.

In an MFA workshop, those are the sentences someone would have marked as “Show don’t tell” or “Too on-the-nose,” I guess. (There have been a surprising number of references to MFA workshops in the reviews of Tsukuru Tazaki. Mostly in regards to stilted dialogue or strange wordings.)

I also have a feeling that Murakami will address this mind-body divide later in the book, so it might not be totally necessary to introduce it so explicitly right now.

In the end, I attribute this slight change to Birnbaum’s major decision to translate kokoro as mind rather than heart. I think it works perfectly in most of the rest of the novel, but here I think the line “People always think of the mind as warmth” in particular feels a little off. “People always think of the heart as warmth,” on the other hand, feels a little more natural.

Compassion

Chapter 17 “End of the World, Charlie Parker, Time Bomb” is a very short chapter, which is fortunate because it’s largely exposition: The scientist’s granddaughter has arrived at Watashi’s apartment, and they chat about what the grandfather must be up to, messing around in Watashi’s head with shuffling. She sneaks into his bed, making this a very softcore sexposition of sorts, which dials up the tension a bit, but otherwise it’s pretty plain, and short.

There is only one minor cut by Birnbaum (or his editor) in a section that is a brief break from the exposition to do some character detail. Check it out:

「学校教育というのは16年間かけて脳味噌を擦り減らすだけのところだって祖父は言ってたわ。祖父もほとんど学校に行かなかったのよ」

「たいしたもんだ」と私は言った。「でも同じ年頃の友だちがいないっていうのは淋しくないの?」

「さあ、どうかしら。私とても忙しかったから、そんなこと考える暇もなかったの。それに私、どうせ同じ年頃の人たちとは話もあいそうになかったし…...」

「ふうん」と私は言った。まあそうかもしれない。

「でも私、あなたにはすごく興味あるのよ」

「どうして?」

「だって、なんだか疲れてるみたいだし、でも疲れていることが一種のエネルギーになっているみたいだしね。そういうのって、私にはよくわからないの。私の知っている人でそういうタイプの人って一人もいないかったの。祖父も決して疲れたりしない人だし、私もそうだし。ねえ、ほんとうに疲れてるの?」

「たしかにに疲れてる」と私は言った。二十回繰りかえして言ってもいいくらいのものだ。

「疲れるってどういうことなのかしら?」と娘が訊ねた。

「感情のいろんなセクションが不明確になるんだ。自己に対する憐憫、他者に対する怒り、他者に対する憐憫、自己に対する怒り———そいうものがさ」

「そのどれもよくわからないわ」

「最後には何もかもがよくわからなくなるのだ。いろんな色に塗りわけたコマをまわすのと同じことでね、回転が速くなればなるほど区分が不明確になって、結局は混沌に至る」

「面白そうだわ」と太った娘は言った。「あなたはそういうことにすごくくわしいのね、きっと」

「そう」と私は言った。私は人生をむしばむ疲労感について、あるいは人生の中心からふつふつと湧きおこってくる疲労感について、百とおりくらいの説明をすることができるのだ。そういうことも学校教育では教えてもらえないもののひとつだ。

「あなたアルト・サックス吹ける?」と彼女が私に訊ねた。

「吹けない」と私は言った。(242-243)

“School is just sixteen years of wearing down your brain—that’s what grandpa always said. And he hardly went to school either.”

“That’s impressive,” I said. “But weren’t you lonely without any friends your own age?”

“Hmm, I dunno. I was just so busy I never had time to think about it. And, come to think of it, I just never had anything to say to kids my own age.”

“Hmm,” I said. I guess she could be right.

“But I’m really curious about you.”

“Why?”

“You just always seem so exhausted, but that exhaustion seems to turn into a form of energy or something. I just don’t get it. I don’t know a single other person like that. Grandpa never gets tired, and neither do I. So, are you actually tired for real?”

“I definitely am,” I said. You could say that again twenty times.

“What’s it like to be tired?” she asked.

“Different parts of your emotions become unclear: Compassion toward your self, anger toward others, compassion toward others, anger toward yourself—those kinds of things.”

“I still don’t get it.”

“Eventually nothing makes sense. It’s like spinning a top painted in different colors. The faster it goes, the more difficult it is to differentiate between them, and it ends in total confusion.”

“Sounds interesting!” the chubby girl said. “You seem to really know a lot about it.”

“Yeah,” I said. I could tell you anything you want to know about exhaustion that devours your life, exhaustion that bubbles out from the center of your being. That’s something else they don’t teach you in school.

“Can you play alto sax?” she asked me.

“I can’t,” I said.

It’s a nice little section. I’ve ended it awkwardly, right as the granddaughter gets a little ADD and then tries to make a move on Watashi, but he sets her straight and they get back to talking about the scientist and his experiments.

BOHE, on the other hand, makes this brief section even shorter and cuts all the sections highlighted in red above:

“Grandfather always said school’s a place where they take sixteen years to wear down your brain. Grandfather hardly went to school either.”

“Incredible,” I said. “But didn’t you feel deprived not having friends your own age?”

“Well, I can’t really say. I was so busy, I never had time to think about it. And besides, I don’t know what I could have said to people my own age.”

“Hmm.”

“On the other hand,” she perked up, “you fascinate me.”

“Huh?”

“I mean, here you are so exhausted, and yet your exhaustion seems to give you a kind of vitality. It’s tremendous,” she chirped. “I bet you’d be good at sax!”

“Excuse me?” (178)

Birnbaum cuts the section that gives Watashi the opportunity to become introspective and think about how he feels, and then to express that to the granddaughter. Not a tremendous loss, but it does start to create an image that will be important later in the book: Spinning around. It took me a second to remember that コマ means top in Japanese, but the spinning and colors makes me think of “Dead Heat on a Merry-go-round,” which Murakami uses as an image in a later chapter.

At any rate, just minor stuff here, but nice minor stuff. Murakami concisely and compellingly describes what it’s like to be tired and how control over your emotions (compassion and anger) fractures. It’s important to be compassionate to yourself and to others. It’s difficult to do that when you’re exhausted.

When looking up the phrase 百とおりくらい (which I’m still not sure I totally understand), I located a personal blog post (JP) that mentions this passage in particular and suggests that the feelings expressed reflect the protagonist and the author’s feelings about life at the time of writing – Murakami would have been about the same age as his protagonist at the time, so I think that’s probably a good guess.

Needs

motomeru

Chapter 16, “The Coming of Winter,” is another nice chapter in Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World where Murakami is beginning to set up the major connections between the two parts of the novel that will play out in the second half: “Mind” and how it affects the people in the Town.

In this chapter, Boku wakes up sick, and the Colonel cares for him. He recovers slowly, has the Colonel deliver the map concealed in a shoe to his shadow, and finally visits the Librarian again.

There are no major revisions by Murakami between versions in this chapter, but Birnbaum (or his editor) [I should really just start calling this “BOHE” to be fair to Birnbaum; translators always take the blame, but editors could be equally if not more guilty] gets up to his old tricks of cutting the final few lines at the end of a section or the chapter in order to end with strong language.

Take this section:

「不思議なものですね」と僕は言った。「僕はまだ心を持っていますが、それでもときどき自分の心を見失ってしまうことがあるんです。いや、見失わない時の方が少ないかもしれないな。それでもそれがいつか戻ってくるという確信のようなものがあって、その確信が僕という存在をひとつにまとめて支えているんです。だから心を失うというのがどういうことなのかうまく想像できないんです」

老人は静かに何度か肯いた。

「よく考えてみるんだね。考えるだけの時間はまだ残されている」

「考えてみます」と僕は言った。 (231-232)

“It’s strange,” I say. “I still have my mind, but occasionally I seem to lose sight of it. Actually, the times when I don’t lose sight of it are far more infrequent. But I feel confident that it will return at some point, and that confidence supports my entire existence. So it’s difficult to imagine what it would be like to lose one’s mind.”

The old man nods quietly. “Think about it long and hard. There’s plenty of time left for you to think.”

“I will,” I say.

I’m not happy with my translation of 見失う, but it’ll do for the purposes of comparison. I’ve also eliminated one of the line breaks to try and make it more clear that the Colonel is speaking. I was tempted to split his line with a dialogue tag. Here is what Birnbaum does:

“It is so strange,” I say. “I still have my mind, but there are times I lose sight of it. Or no, the times I lose sight of it are few. Yet I have confidence that it will return, and that conviction sustains me.” (170-171)

Hmm…interesting. Birnbaum [or his editor] seems to make a small error: He fails to notice the negative ending of the verb 見失う in the second usage. Which muddles the translation. Boku is trying to emphasize exactly how infrequently he is aware of the presence of his own mind.

More importantly for the purposes of this blog post, Birnbaum also cuts the final four lines (marked in red above). This is a nice strategic choice. He picks the strongest line and says BOOM, we’re done here, time to move on. His translation is wonderful: “That conviction sustains me” is a great forceful way to end. Strong, adaptive, creative translation. What do you think? Does he go to far here?

I forget whether I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but this might be a good point to remind readers that Birnbaum uses “mind” for 心 (kokoro), which I think makes a huge difference in the translation. I feel like the repetition of “heart” would start to get saccharine at some point and become less compelling over the course of the novel. Mind, on the other hand, is worth pursuing.

Birnbaum makes other cuts at the end of the whole chapter that have greater implications for the theme and language that Murakami uses in this chapter.

Boku gets to the library and waits for the Librarian. She takes a while to arrive, and when she does, he mentions that he thought she wouldn’t come:

「どうしてもう来ないなんて思ったの?」と彼女は言った。

「わからない」と僕は言った。「ただそんな気がしたんだ」

「あなたが求めている限り私はここに来るわ。あなたは私を求めているんでしょう?

僕は肯いた。確かに僕は彼女を求めているのだ。彼女に会うことによって、僕の喪失感がどれほど深まろうと、それでもやはり僕は彼女を求めているのだ。 (235)

“Why did you think I wouldn’t come?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “I just had a feeling.”

“As long as you want me, I’ll come. You do want me here, right?

I nod. I definitely want her. My sense of loss deepens when I see her, but despite that I want her.

The key word we’re looking at here is 求める (もとめる), which can be “want” or “request” (unless I’m misreading it?). I rendered it once as “want me here” because I wasn’t quite bold enough to have Boku say “I want you” directly to the Librarian. As you can see in the translation, Birnbaum also avoids this through cuts and by translating 求める as “need”:

“Did you not think I would come?” she asks.

“I do not know,” I say. “It was just a feeling.”

“I will come as long as you need me.”

Surely I do need her. Even as my sense of loss deepens each time we meet, I will need her.” (173)

Birnbaum also cuts the few lines (highlighted in red) where Boku explicitly acknowledges his need/desire for her when she asks. The result is a much more implicit (dare I say “Japanese”?) conversation.

But this section is also interesting when read alongside cuts at the end of the chapter:

「君は君の影が戻ってきたとき彼女に会ったのかい?」

彼女は首を振った。「いいえ、会わなかったわ。私には彼女に会う理由がないような気がしたの。それはきっと私とはまるでべつのものだもの」

「でもそれは君自身だったかもしれない」

「あるいはね」と彼女は言った。「でもどちらにしても今となっては同じことよ。もう輪はとじてしまったんだもの」

ストーヴの上でポットが音を立てはじめたが、それは僕には何キロも遠くから聞こえてくる風の音のように感じられた。

「それでもまだあなたは私を求めているの?」

「求めている」と僕は答えた。 (236)

“Did you meet your shadow when she came back?”

She shakes her head. “No, I didn’t. I felt like there wasn’t any reason to meet her. I just felt like she was something totally separate from me.”

“But maybe she was part of yourself.”

“Maybe so,” she says. “But it’s all the same either way now. The circle has already closed.”

The pot on the stove starts to rattle, but it sounds like the wind miles in the distance.

“Do you still want me?”

“I do,” I say.

And here is how Birnbaum renders this scene:

“Did you meet with your shadow before she died?”

She shakes her head. “No, I did not see her. There was no reason for us to meet. She had become something apart from me.”

The pot on the stove begins to murmur, sounding to my ears like the wind in the distance. (173)

Again I’ve marked the redacted lines in red, and again you can see that Birnbaum cuts 求める. The communication between the two characters becomes far more implicit in translation than in the Japanese, which ratchets up the tension.

I don’t normally like stories/chapters/writing that begin or end with dialogue, but the original Japanese isn’t bad as far as dialogue goes. It feels decisive, especially when rendered into English where it isn’t necessary to repeat the actual verb itself. But Birnbaum’s translation also has its appeal, and it reminds me why I loved/love the novel so much and why it hit me so forcefully when I read it at 17 (15 years ago, damn): That unresolved, unspoken tension made me wonder whether Boku would be able to connect with the Librarian, and I kept turning the pages to find out.

More Investigations

Back to the real point of this blog – yeah, it’s a Murakami blog these days despite my two recent posts on the Japanese language. If you’re a new reader, here’s the idea: Haruki Murakami’s 1985 novel Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World presents an interesting case study in translation and author revision. Alfred Birnbaum translated creatively (perhaps too creatively at times), and Murakami himself made changes in the text for the version that appears in the 1990 Complete Works box set. Birnbaum’s translation was published in 1991 by Kodansha International.

Chapter 15 “Whiskey, Torture, Turgenev” does not have many changes. Birnbaum makes a few creative leaps here and there, but nothing outside of a translator’s regular poetic license. In this chapter, the goons cut Watashi’s belly, his coworkers from the System come check him out, he gets sewn up at the hospital, he reads some Russian literature, has a nap, and then gets a call from the granddaughter.

There is one paragraph that gets cut between the two Japanese versions. Take a look at the 1985 version:

私は本を閉じて残り少ないジャック・ダニエルズを喉の奥に送り込みながら、壁に囲まれた世界のことをしばらく考えた。私はその壁や門の姿を比較的簡単に思い浮かべることができた。とても高い壁で、とても大きな門だ。そしてしんとしている。そして私自身がその中にいる。しかし私の意識はとてもぼんやりとしていて、まわりの風景を見きわめることはできなかった。街全体の風景は細部まではっきるとわかるのだが、私のまわりだけがひどくぼんやりとかすんでいるのだ。そしてその不透明なヴェールの向うから誰かが私をよんでいた。

それはまるで映画の光景のようだったので、私はこれまでに観た歴史映画の中にそういうシーンがなかったかと思いかえしてみた。しかし『エル・シド』にも『ベン・ハー』にも『十戒』にも『聖衣』にも『スパルタカス』にも、そんなシーンはなかった。とすればそんな光景はおそらく私の気まぐれなでっちあげなのだろう。

おそらくその壁は私の限定された人生を暗示しているのに違いない、と私は思った。しんとしているのは音抜きの後遺症だ。あたりの風景がかすんでいるのは私の想像力が壊滅的危機に直面しているからだ。私をよんでいるのはたぶんあのピンク色の娘だ。(277-278)

And now the 1990 version, which is clearly missing a paragraph:

私は本を閉じて残り少ないジャック・ダニエルズを喉の奥に送り込みながら、壁に囲まれた世界のことをしばらく考えた。私はその壁や門の姿を比較的簡単に思い浮かべることができた。とても高い壁で、とても大きな門だ。そしてしんとしている。そして私自身がその中にいる。しかし私の意識はとてもぼんやりとしていて、まわりの風景を見きわめることはできなかった。街全体の風景は細部まではっきるとわかるのだが、私のまわりだけがひどくぼんやりとかすんでいるのだ。そしてその不透明なヴェールの向うから誰かが私をよんでいた。

私は頭を振ってそんなイメージを追い払った。私はつかれているのだ。おそらくその壁は私の限定された人生を暗示しているのに違いない、と私は思った。しんとしているのは音抜きの後遺症だ。あたりの風景がかすんでいるのは私の想像力が壊滅的危機に直面しているからだ。私をよんでいるのはたぶんあのピンク色の娘だ。(221-222)

Strangely, Birnbaum’s translation includes aspects from each of these versions. I’ve marked the matching segments in red and blue above and below:

I shut the book and bid the last thimbleful of Jack Daniel’s farewell, turning over in my mind the image of a world within walls. I could picture it, with no effort at all. A very high wall, a very large gate. Dead quiet. Me inside. Beyond that, the scene was hazy. Details of the world seemed to be distinct enough, yet at the same time everything around me was dark and blurred. And from some great obscure distance, a voice was calling.

It was like a scene from a movie, a historical blockbuster. But which? Not El Cid, not Ben Hur, not Spartacus. No, the image had to be something my subconscious dreamed up.

I shook my head to drive the image from my mind. I was so tired.

Certainly, the walls represented the limitations hemming in my life. The silence, residue of my encounter with sound-removal. The blurred vision of my surroundings, an indication that my imagination faced imminent crisis. The beckoning voice, the everything-pink girl, probably. (164)

Birnbaum’s translation includes the paragraph about movies from the 1985 version (although Birnbaum cuts The Ten Commandments (十戒) and The Robe (聖衣) to fit the English “rule of three”), but it also includes the line that Murakami uses to replace that daydream: 私は頭を振ってそんなイメージを追い払った。私はつかれているのだ。Birnbaum gives them their own paragraph.

This seems to suggest one of two things: Either Birnbaum was translating based on both the original and revised versions, or Murakami made his revisions based on Birnbaum’s “adapted” translation.

Based on publication date alone, it seems like the former must be true, but I’m not so sure. The translation easily could have been completed in 1988 and then taken three years to finalize. We know from Jay Rubin’s book Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words that Rubin was asked to vet Hard-boiled Wonderland in Japanese for a publisher and that Birnbaum had already been selected to translate the book (and perhaps he already had). That would have given Murakami time to look over his own manuscript, especially if Birnbaum had cleared changes with him and pointed out locations he adapted.

More investigations are required.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how nice a chapter this is. It’s long, but Murakami plays the Murakami game and lets his narrator get drunk and ramble with charm about Turgenev, Stendahl, and Dostoevsky before the thought process comes full circle and links both halves of the book. Magic.

Weak and Uncertain

Mori

Chapter 14 is “Woods” in the End of the World section. Appropriately, autumn ends and winter begins in this chapter. (Spoiler alert: Like the winter of 2013-14, the winter in the book never ends. Snow on the ground in the last chapter, if I remember correctly.) Boku talks with the Colonel, receives a jacket from him along with warnings about the change in weather, and then hustles to finish up the map for his shadow. Doing so involves trips into the woods. He sits to take a nap at one point, awakes cold and feverish, and then stumbles back to the Town in a daze where the Librarian takes care of him.

There is a well in this chapter, one of Murakami’s pet images/symbols. Interestingly, it’s filled in. Other than that there isn’t much to say. No major cuts by Birnbaum or revisions by Murakami in this chapter. It’s short and sweet. I had to dig pretty deep to find anything at all to write about, but I did find a few sentences Birnbaum cut:

しかしどれだけ森の奥を歩くことが心地良くとも、僕はやはり完全に壁を離れることはできなかった。森の奥は深く、一度そこに迷いこめば方向を見定めることさえ不可能だった。道もなく目じるしもない。だから僕は常に目の端に壁を捉えられる程度の距離を維持しながら注意深く森を進んだ。森が僕にとって味方なのか敵なのかを簡単に見きわめることはできなかったし、そのやすらぎと心地良さはあるいは僕をその中に誘いこむための幻想かもしれなかった。いずれにせよ、老人が指摘したように、この街にとって僕は弱く不安定な存在なのだ。どれだけ注意してもしすぎるということはない。

おそらく森の奥に本格的に足を踏み入れなかったせいだとは思うが、僕は森に住む人々の痕跡をひとつとして目にすることはできなかった。足跡もなければ、人が何かに手を触れたような形跡もなかった。僕は森の中で彼らに出会うことをなかば怖れ、なかば期待していたが、何日歩きまわってみても彼らの存在を暗示するような出来事は何ひとつ起こらなかった。彼らはたぶんもっと奥の方に暮らしているのだろうと僕は推測した。それとも僕の姿を巧妙に避けているかだ。(200)

But no matter how nice it is to walk through the woods, I can never completely separate myself from the Wall. The woods are deep, and if I got lost, it would be impossible to reorient myself; there are no roads and no landmarks. So I continue through the woods with extreme care, always staying close enough so I can always keep the Wall in my periphery. I can’t tell whether the woods are friend or foe, nor whether the tranquility and comfort are merely an illusion meant to lure me in. At any rate, as the Colonel said, my existence is, to the Town, weak and uncertain. I can’t be too cautious.

Perhaps because I never truly entered the deepest part of the woods, I am not able to spot a single trace of the people who live in the woods. Not their footsteps, nor evidence that they had touched anything. With equal parts fear and anticipation, I walk for several days, but there is nothing that would signal their existence. They must live deeper in the woods. Or maybe they are skillfully avoiding me.

As you can see, Birnbaum (or the editor) compresses the first paragraph, getting rid of the last three sentences:

No matter how pleasant this walk deeper into the Woods may be, I dare not relinquish sight of the Wall. For should I stray deep into the Woods, I will have lost all direction. There are no paths, no landmarks to guide me. I moderate my steps.

I do not meet any forest dwellers. I see not a footprint, not an artifact shaped by human hands. I walk, afraid, expectant. Perhaps I have not traveled far enough into the interior. Perhaps they are skillfully avoiding me. (147)

The more I think about it, the more I feel like this change in the translation is the result of an editor and not by Birnbaum. The key phrase—“weak and uncertain”—gets repeated later in the chapter: “My own existence seems weak, uncertain” (149). I can see an editor saying, “Hey, why’s this have to be in here twice?” I can see the red pen scratch out those last three lines and, in the margins, write “tl;dr: I moderate my steps.”

At any rate, not a translation crime worthy of a war trial. Not a cut that I would’ve made, though. I like the illusory nature of the woods, and I like the uncertainty that gets repeated.

On the Rocks

suntory red

(Photo from this cool retro blog, which I found via this excellent blog post waxing nostalgic about Japanese whiskey.)

お待たせしました! and 明けましておめでとうございます!

Apologies for the long delay between posts. Thanksgiving to New Years is a long blur, but I have, in exchange for that delay, a hefty post looking at more hidden Murakami passages in both translation and revision from Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Without further ado…

Chapter 13 is in the Hard-boiled Wonderland section of the novel. Watashi wakes up from shuffling, goes to meet the chubby granddaughter after she calls in a panic, kills time at a supermarket waiting for her, and then—when the girl doesn’t show up—returns home to sleep and to confront the oddly sized thugs looking to break into the information black market. They trash his place, end of chapter.

There are small cuts in this chapter (sadly one of the やれやれs gets axed) and there are enormous cuts. The two most sizable cuts happen for basically the same reason: superfluous characterization. Strangely enough, they are both cut from both the 1990 Murakami revision and the 1991 Birnbaum translation. Hmm…

I’ll give them to you in reverse order, otherwise known as the order of increasing interest and the order of increasing length.

In the 1985 version, we get more details about the background of the dwarfish thug. He advises Watashi to give up his beer habit but then admits to two vices of his own: smoking and sweets:

私は肯いて同意した。

男は煙草をまた一本とりだして、ライターで火をつけた。

「俺はチョコレート工場の横で育ったんだよ。それでたぶん甘いもの好きになっちまったんだろうね。チョコレート工場といってもさ、森永とか明治とか、ああいう大きいのじゃなくてさ、小さな名もない町工場でさ、ほら駄菓子屋とかスーパーマーケットのバーゲンとかで売っているような、ああいうゴツゴツした素気ないやつを造るところなんだ。それでなにしろ、毎日毎日チョコレートの匂いがするんだな。いろんなものにチョコレートの匂いが染みついちまうんだ。カーテンとか枕とか猫とか、そういうあらゆるものにさ。だからチョコレートは今でも好きだよ。チョコレートの匂いをかぐと子供の頃のこと思いだすんだ」

男はローレックスの文字盤にちらりと目をやった。(231-232)

I nodded in agreement.

The man took out another cigarette and lit it with his lighter.

“I grew up next to a chocolate factory. That’s probably why I ended up with a sweet tooth. I say chocolate factory, but I’m not talking Morinaga or Meiji or anything big like that. Just a tiny, no-name neighborhood chocolate factory. A place that makes the gross crap that ends up in the bargain bin at the supermarket. In any case, it smelled like chocolate every day. That chocolate smell got into all sorts of crap. The curtains, pillows, the cat, shit like that. Which is why I still like chocolate to this day. When I smell chocolate, I think of my childhood.”

The man glanced at his Rolex.

This is, perhaps, a typically Murakami-esque detail in that it links the mind and body and seeks to explain the compulsions of human behavior. But it’s also totally unnecessary: these guys are supposed to be caricature, not fleshed out characters. Although perhaps growing up alongside a crappy little chocolate factory is a perfect caricature-like detail.

(On a side note, here’s a clue as to why the guy might be associating cigarettes and chocolate, other than them both being bad habits:

meiji

)

At any rate, Murakami thought better of it the second time around and cut it out of the 1990 version:

私は肯いて同意した。

男はローレックスの文字盤にちらりと目をやった。 (184)

I nodded in agreement.

The man glanced at his rolex.

But he also cuts the cigarette line, which results in a phantom cigarette a few pages later. It’s like those scenes in movies where the costume people forget what someone was wearing and it suddenly changes in the next scene: the thug is suddenly ashing a cigarette he never lit on the floor.

Birnbaum takes care of this easily in his translation:

He lit another cigarette, and glanced at the dial of his Rolex. (135)

The second passage is much more substantial and very “improvised.” Whenever I see passages like this, it always reminds me of the comparisons that Murakami always gets to a jazz soloist. And then I remember that I hate John Coltrane (most Coltrane). I think this technique works in more controlled bursts (“The 1963/1982 Girl from Ipanema”), but it can be distracting in novels.

This passage is fun enough, I guess. Take a look:

それで私は反対側の壁にはってある煙草のポスターに目をやった。つるりとした顔の若い男が火のついたフィルターつきの煙草を指にはさんで、ぼんやりとした目つきで斜め前方を見ていた。煙草の広告モデルはどうしていつもこういう〈何も見てない・何も考えていない〉という目つきができるのだろう。

煙草のポスターではフランクフルトのポスターを見ているときほど長く暇がつぶせなかったので、私はうしろを向いて、がらんとしたマーケットの店内を見まわした。スタンドの正面には果物の缶詰が巨大な蟻塚みたいに高く積みあげてあった。桃の山とグレープフルーツの山とオレンジの山が三つ並んでいる。その前には試食用のテーブルが置かれていたが、まだ夜も明けたばかりなので、試食サービスは行われてはいなかった。朝の五時四十五分から果物の缶詰を試食する人はいない。テーブルのわきには〈USA・フルーツ・フェア〉というポスターがはってあった。プールの前に白いガーデン・チェアのセットがあり、そこで女の子がフルーツの盛りあわせを食べていた。金髪でブルー・アイズで脚が長くよく日焼けした美しい娘だった。フルーツの広告写真にはいつも金髪の娘がでてくる。どれだけ長く見つめていても、目を離した次の瞬間にはどんな顔だったかまるで思い出せない——というタイプの美人だ。そういうタイプの美しさが世の中には存在する。グレープフルーツと同じで、見わけがつかない。

酒類の売り場はレンジスターが独立していたが、そこには店員はいなかった。まともな人間は朝食前に酒を買いに来たりはしないからだ。だからそこの一郭には客の姿もなく店員の姿もなく、酒瓶だけが植木されたばかりの小型の針葉樹といった格好で静かに並んでいた。ありがたいことに、このコーナーにはポスターが壁一面にはってあった。数えてみるとブランディーとバーボン・ウィスキーとウォッカが一枚ずつ、スコッチ・ウィスキーと国産のウィスキーが三枚ずつ、日本酒が二枚とビールが四枚あった。どうして酒のポスターだけがこんなに数多くあるのか、私にはよくわからない。あるいはそれは酒というものがあらゆる飲食品の中でもっとも祝祭的な性格を有しているからかもしれない。

しかし暇をつぶすにはもってこいだったので、私は端から順番にそのポスターを眺めていった。それで、その十五枚のポスターを眺めて、私にわかったことは、あらゆる酒の中ではウィスキーのオン・ザ・ロックが視覚的にいちばん美しいということだった。簡単に言えば、写真うつりが良いのだ。底の広い大柄なグラスにかき氷を三つか四つ放り込み、そこに琥珀色のとろりとしたウィスキーを注ぐ。すると氷のとけた白い水がウィスキーの紅白色に混じる前に一瞬すらりと泳ぐのだ。これはなかなか美しいものだった。気をつけてみると、ウィスキーのポスター写真の殆どにはオン・ザ・ロックがうつっていた。水割りでは印象が薄いし、ストレートでは間がもたないのだろう。

もうひとつ気づいたのは、つまみのうつっているポスターがないということだった。ポスターの中でも酒を飲んでいる人間は、誰もつまみを食べていないのだ。みんなただ、酒を飲んでいるのだ。これはたぶん、つまみがうつったりすると酒の純粋性が失われると考えられているかもしれない。あるいはつまみが酒のイメージを固定してしまうからかもしれない。あるいはそのポスターを見る人間の注意がつまみの方にそれてしまうからかもしれない。それはなんとなく分かるような気がした。ものごとにはすべからく理由というものがあるのだ。

ポスターを眺めているうちに六時になった。が、太った娘はまだ現れなかった。 (219-221)

I looked at the cigarette poster on the opposite wall. A shiny-faced young man holding a filter-tip cigarette looked absentmindedly askance into the distance. I wondered how the models for cigarette ads are always able attain that thought-free I’m-not-looking-at-anything look in their eyes.

I couldn’t kill as much time staring at the cigarette poster as I had with the Frankfurt poster, so I turned around and looked over the empty supermarket. At the front of the displays, cans of fruit were stacked into huge piles like enormous anthills. There was a mountain of peaches, a mountain of grapefruits, and a mountain of oranges, three altogether. In front of all that, there was a table for samples, but the day had only just dawned, so they weren’t doing the sample service. No one comes to try fruit at five forty-five in the morning. On the side of the table, there was a “USA Fruit Fair” poster. There was a white garden chair set in front of a pool, and a girl was there eating from a fruit platter. She was a beautiful girl with blond hair, blue eyes, long legs, and a dark suntan. Photos for fruit ads always use blondes. No matter how long you stare at the girls, though, the second you look away, you can’t even remember what they looked like – that’s the kind of beauties they use. That kind of beauty exists all over the world. Just like grapefruits, you can’t tell them apart.

Alcohol sales had a separate register, but there was no clerk there. Because decent folks don’t do things like go shopping for booze before breakfast. So there were no customers or employees in that whole section, which made the bottles of booze seem lined up quietly like bonsai pines that had just been planted. Thankfully, the wall in this section was covered in posters. I counted them up: there was one each of brandy, bourbon, and vodka, three of both scotch and Japanese whiskey, two for sake, and four for beer. I didn’t know why alcohol was the only thing that had so many posters. Maybe it was because it provides the most festive personality of all the different types of food and drink.

However, they were perfect for killing time, so I started at the side and looked at the posters one by one in order. As I looked at those fifteen posters, I realized that of all the boozes, whiskey on the rocks is the most visually appealing. To put it simply, it’s photogenic. Throw three or four big chunks of ice into a wide-bottomed glass, pour in some viscous, amber whiskey, and there’s this moment just before the ice melts and light-colored water mixes with the amber when the ice swims lithely in the liquor. It’s a sight to see. If you pay attention, you’ll realize that most whiskey posters are photos of whiskey on the rocks. I guess whiskey and water looks too weak, and straight must feel like something is missing.

I also realized that there weren’t any posters with beer snacks. None of the drinkers in any of the posters were eating anything. Everyone was just drinking. Maybe this is because they thought the booze would lose its purity if it shared the spotlight with snacks. Or that the snacks would stereotype the booze. Or that the viewers of the posters would focus on the snacks instead of the beer. Those are things I could understand. There’s always a reason behind things.

As I was looking at the posters, it turned six o’clock. But the fat girl still hadn’t appeared.

I’m not totally confident with the entire translation (especially with the last line in the penultimate paragraph – there must be something better than that), but hopefully it’s good enough to give you a sense of the original and what Murakami is doing…which is going on and on about how he feels the world works. In this case, he’s breaking down poster theory. Not exactly critical to the book. And, again, Murakami notices this in time for the revision:

それで私は反対側の壁にはってある煙草のポスターに目をやった。つるりとした顔の若い男が火のついたフィルターつきの煙草を指にはさんで、ぼんやりとした目つきで斜め前方を見ていた。煙草の広告モデルはどうしていつもこういう〈何も見てない・何も考えていない〉という目つきができるのだろう。

そんな風に店に貼ってあるいろんなポスターをぼんやりと眺めているうちに六時になった。が、太った娘はまだ現れなかった。 (175-176)

I looked at the cigarette poster on the opposite wall. A shiny-faced young man holding a filter-tip cigarette looked absentmindedly askance into the distance. I wondered how the models for cigarette ads are always able attain that thought-free I’m-not-looking-at-anything look in their eyes.

And as I was gazing at all the different posters on the wall of the store, it turned six o’clock. But the fat girl still hadn’t appeared.

Birnbaum, too, takes an axe to this ginormous aside; he cuts even more than Murakami:

I turned my gaze to the poster on the opposite wall. A shiny-faced young man holding a filter-tip was staring obliquely into the distance. Uncanny how models in cigarette ads always have that not-watching anything, not-thinking-anything look in their eyes.

At six o’clock, the chubby girl still hadn’t shown. (130)

But he’s nicer than I am to the girl – “chubby” is a more sympathetic choice than “fat.” Probably the right choice.

It may still be too soon to say (I know that there are more whiskey-related scenes later in this book), but I’m not sure these asides will pay off. It will be interesting to see. The watermelon cut from earlier, for example, I think works because of the way Murakami wove the idea of watermelons into the first chapter as a metaphor for the brain. Here we will have to wait and see.

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.