Picture of Author    From the Desktop of Haruki Marukami

TRANSLATING MURAKAMI: an email roundtable


From: Jay Rubin
Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 8:43 PM
To: Gary Fisketjon; Philip Gabriel
Subject: Re: An email roundtable: Translating Murakami


The cutting done on WIND-UP is a complex matter. The more you look into it and into the question of revision, the more you realize there is no single authoritative version of ANY Murakami work: he tinkers with everything long after it first finds its way into print. I once heard that Willem de Kooning would occasionally follow a painting of his to the gallery and revise it on the wall, and Murakami's willingness to fix his stuff reminds me of that.

I did virtually all the cutting on WIND-UP, but I would have done none at all if Knopf hadn't told Haruki that the book was too long and would have to be cut by some number of words (I think it was around 25,000 words). Afraid that they would hire some freelancer who could wreak havoc on the novel, and filled with a megalomaniac certainty that I knew every word in the book--maybe better than the author himself--after having translated all three hefty volumes, I decided to forestall the horror by submitting my manuscript in two versions: complete, and cut. Knopf took my cut version pretty much as is (which no doubt saved them a lot of work and expense; like Phil, I was not recognized as an editor in anything other than the notice in the front of the book).

Having recently completed Book 3, Haruki felt incapable of cutting that, but he had enough distance from Books 1 and 2 to mark many passages for elimination--many SHORT passages that didn't add up to much in terms of word count. I included most--BUT NOT ALL--of his cuts as part of my cut version (in some, I thought he had taken out important passages), and of course sent the entire cut version to him. Later, when the paperback version of the Japanese text appeared, I found that Haruki had incorporated into that many--BUT NOT ALL-- of the cuts he had suggested for the translation, so the hard cover and paperback versions in Japanese are different from each other.

(For example, there is no reference to the illustrator Tony Takitani, a character from an earlier Murakami story, in either the translation or the Japanese paperback. Obviously, Haruki had enjoyed throwing the name in as an in-joke, then thought better of it during the process of revising for the cut translation, which he then carried over into the paperback.) Haruki did NOT, however, adopt the large cuts made for the translation into the Japanese paperback, though I have not done a systematic comparison of the two. Another different text is the British version from Harvill, which has British spellings and expressions. An energetic graduate student could have a field day tracking down all these differences, though it would probably be a waste of time. I do think, though, that if THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE outlives its time and becomes part of the canon fifty years from now, a re-translation will be needed, and scholars can have a fine time screaming about how Jay Rubin utterly butchered the text.

As for Japanese editors, you're right, Phil, they don't edit-not the way Knopf and The New Yorker do.



From: Philip Gabriel Sent: Monday, December 18, 2000 5:28 PM
From: Jay Rubin Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 5:23 AM  
From: Philip Gabriel Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 12:17 PM  
From: Jay Rubin Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 8:43 PM  
From: Jay Rubin Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 10:21 PM  
From: Jay Rubin Sent: Tuesday, January 9, 2001 8:22 PM  
From: Philip Gabriel Sent: Tuesday, January 9, 2001 8:22 PM  
From: Fisketjon, Gary Sent: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 2:14 PM  
From: Philip Gabriel Sent: Jan. 18, 2001 
From: Gary Fisketjon Sent: Thursday, January 18, 2001 5:50 PM