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TRANSLATING MURAKAMI: an email roundtable

From: Jay Rubin
Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 10:21 PM
Cc: Gary Fisketjon; Philip Gabriel
Subject: Re: An email roundtable: Translating Murakami

P.S. Sorry I had to rush off the computer during the last message, realized I hadn't quite answered everything.

About SPUTNIK. I think we're back to the divergent tastes issue. Without going into a lot of detail, it just didn't appeal to me past the wonderful opening passage. I found too much of it too predictable. Murakami himself recognizes that not everybody likes everything of his.

About the student's finding whole chapters missing from the translation of WIND-UP BIRD. It's true. I felt that Book 3, which came out a year after Books 1 and 2, rendered much of the ending of Book 2 irrelevant, thought that, as long as major cutting was being required by the American publisher, that part of the book was the best candidate for cutting. I still think the translation is tighter and cleaner than the original, but I suppose that very tightness can be viewed as a distortion of the original, an Americanization of a Japanese work of art. I had a great time doing it, though. It turned out to be a MUCH more complex process than I had imagined, and I'd probably have trouble myself now trying to reconstruct the steps I went through.

Phil's question to Gary about covers reminds me of the case of WIND-UP BIRD. Knopf did an absolutely knock-out job on that book, with a beautifully colorful mechanical wind-up bird on the dust jacket, a transparent raised plastic spring mechanism laminated over it, the same mechanism printed on the cover itself, circular mechanical motifs throughout the book, including page numbers that rotate around the edge of the page, etc. etc. I think it won some kind of prize (though I was never told so directly). I pointed out to them early in the process that, much as I liked what they were doing, there is a passage in the book that says specifically the wind-up bird is NOT a mechanical wind-up toy, but there was no turning back. (Finding out what the wind-up bird is is a large part of the experience of reading the book, so I would prefer not to blurt out what I think it is.) I might point out, however, that, far from being a mechanical toy, it is not a physical entity of any kind, or at least it is not visible: it exists only as a cry.



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