Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Korean Translation of Killing Commendatore Is Already Out!

The Korean translation of Haruki Murakami's latest novel, Kishidanchōgoroshi, came out on July 12, not quite five months after its Japanese premiere. The translator is Hong Eun-Ju, and the publisher is Munhakdongne Publishing Group.

Five months is a very short time to translate, edit, and publish a 1050-page-long novel!  We probably won't see any European translations until next year.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Some Thoughts on Murakami by Two American Translators

Tom Power and Ted Goossen from
A recorded interview with Ted Goossen, one of Murakami's current translators and a professor at York University, was published on June 5, on the Canadian website of cbc radio. The interview is titled "The joys and challenges of translating Haruki Murakami's work" and the interviewer is Tom Power. You find out about Goossen's translation process and also how Murakami and Goossen met. I noticed one mistake by Power, who stated that Murakami has been translated into more than 40 languages, but in fact it is more than 50.

You can listen to the interview here:

Thinking about Ted Goossen brought to mind another Murakami-related article written by Stephen Snyder, professor of Japanese Studies at Middlebury College and a well-known translator of Japanese literature (but not of Murakami). It appeared a few months ago, in January 2017 and was titled "The Murakami Effect: on the Homogenizing Dangers of Easily Translated Literature."

Snyder writes about the publishing industry and the way Murakami's ("easily translated") works have been marketed globally. He compares Murakami's short story "Samsa in Love" (you can read it here on the New Yorker page) translated by Ted Goossen with Minae Mizumura's A True Novel in Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. Mizumura's writing is given as an example of not-so-easily translated literature. The story of A True Novel is loosely based on the plot of Wuthering Heights, but it is set in post-war Japan.  (It is a great book and I recommend it for a long and lazy summer reading!). "Samsa in Love" was inspired by Kafka's The Metamorphosis. 

The article makes many interesting points and offers the following comments about connections between Murakami's writing and translation:

Murakami’s work begins and ends in translation. He creates fictions that are both translatable and embody translation in their themes and methods. His work moves between languages and cultures (and, perhaps particularly, into and out of English) with relative ease and fluidity, with few textual and stylistic impediments or difficult cultural contexts, but, rather, various mechanisms and textual markers that seem to invite and insist on translation as both theme and practice.

I certainly agree with this statement. One result of that technique, and of the fact that, as Snyder says, Murakami "moves between languages and cultures (and, perhaps particularly, into and out of English)" is that in their English translations Murakami's works lose some of the Western flavor they have in Japanese, which early Japanese critics used to refer to as "stinking of butter" ( バターくさい) .  Somewhat paradoxically, that quality is retained in translations into other languages, where borrowings from English continue to stand out -- although perhaps not to the degree they stand out in Japanese.

You can read whole the article here:

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Translator's Visibility - Translating Murakami Live

Mette Holm, the Danish translator of Murakami, is translating live at a trendy art gallery in Copenhagen, Espace 10-4 . The event -- really a "happening" -- is called "Killing Commendatore - tableau vivant," and has been going on since June 1.

Here is a picture of the translator at work from the gallery's Facebook page (to which I found a link on the gallery's website).

This event is a unique opportunity to see a translator at work, rendering her "real" instead of an invisible being behind a name on the book's inside cover. That it is taking place in an art gallery drives home the point that a translator is in fact a creator in his or her own right.

This is an advertisement from the gallery's website:


Mette Holm is accompanied by Christine Bechameil, an artist who paints portraits of passersby when they decide to stop (and sit) and watch Mette work. This has the effect of turning window-shoppers into the subject of the window's gaze.

Here is one of the portraits posted on the gallery's website.

It is a little hard to tell from the photo, but there appears to be a screen on the left with projected text. Perhaps it shows the progress of Mette's translation? Short fragments have been posted on the website.

Haruki Murakami is extremely popular in Denmark. He has visited the country more than once, last time in October 2017 to receive the Andersen Prize. Mette is a celebrity as his translator, giving many talks and lectures about translation and Murakami's writing, trying to bring the process closer to the readers and fans.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Men Without Women Out in English Tomorrow!

According to, the English version of Haruki Murakami's newest short story collection, Men Without Women, is to come out tomorrow, May 9.  Reviews are already beginning to appear. Here is a link to a review from the Washington Post by Heller McAlpin, which came out on May 5. Of all the stories, McAlpin liked "Drive My Car" and "Yesterday" most. The review ends with this statement: "As the members of Murakami’s lonely hearts club band discover in these affecting stories, life, however baffling, is better shared."

As is common with reviews of foreign literature, the reviewer does not comment on the quality of the translation. Also, although I believe the book has two translators, Phil Gabriel and Ted Goossen, only Gabriel is mentioned. Not nice...

Another review, by Arifa Akbar, appeared in the Financial Times also on May 5. Here is a link, but you may not be able to see the article without subscribing. This one reviews the British edition, and is titled "Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami -- island life." It talks about the "unbridgeable gap between the sexes" and quotes one of the stories in which the main character says, “I’m not stranded on a desert island . . . I am a desert island.”

                                                         A fitting illustration by Becky Strange.

The Guardian review (also from May 5th) was written by M. John Harrison and refers to "a quiet panic" in its title. The author looks for echoes of Hemingway, which the title of the collection, of course, suggests. You can read the review here. Harrison assures that "devotees will find plenty of signature Murakami here. Incidentally, this review doesn't even mention the translators. 

Another review appeared in the Chicago Tribune on May 8, available here. The author, Shoshana Olidorf, seems to like only one of the stories, "Scheherazade," and is critical of the motif of "glorified male lust" present throughout the collection. When talking about "Samsa in Love," some aspects of which she likes, she says: "What follows is yet another iteration of a motif that undermines this entire collection, one in which unrestrained male lust is glorified under the guise of existential loneliness and female characters serve as mere vehicles for the fulfillment or denial of male longing." No mention of the translator in this review, either. 

This also seems like a good opportunity to announce the French translation of the collection by Hélène Morita. It came out from Editions Belfond, Murakami's French publisher, in March of this year. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Other new or not so new translations

I think have never mentioned Latvian translations on this blog before, but Murakami has been published in Latvia by Zvaigzne ABC since 2004 and from the very beginning has been translated directly from the Japanese!

The first Latvian translation was A Wild Sheep Chase/Aitas medīšanas piedzīvojumi in 2004. Dance, dance, dance/ Dejo, dejo, dejo followed in 2008. Both were translated by Ingūna Beķere. The same year Hard-Bolied Wonderland.../ Skarbā brīnumzeme un pasaules gals in Inese Avana's translation also appeared. These were followed by Kafka on the Shore/Kafka liedagā (2012), 1Q84 (2012-13),  Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.../Bezkrāsu Cukuru Tadzaki un viņa svētceļnieka gadi  (2014) and What I Think About When I Think About Running/Par ko es runāju, runādams par skriešanu (2015), all translated by Ingūna Beķere. 

The Strange Library/Savādā bibliotēka in Ingūna Beķere's translation appeared this year. 
I am grateful for all this information to Ms. Una Orinska from Zvaigzne ABC. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

New Murakami Novel Appeared Today

A new novel by Murakami Haruki, Kichidanchōgoroshi, appears in Japan. Shinchōsha has just released a brief animated ad featuring a decorative sword, which is also featured on the covers of both volumes of the novel.


The book appeared on February 24 at midnight (about an hour ago), but the press is already publishing articles about the excitement surrounding the release. For example, an article in Mainichi Shinbun described a long line of "harukists" (Haruki fans) that formed yesterday in front of Tsutaya Ebisubashi bookstore in Osaka, where the book was to go on sale at midnight. It seems that the bookstore installed a countdown panel yesterday showing the time left till the release. The books were laid out in the store around 10pm and covered with cloth until the release. The bookstore manager, Akihito Kuroki said, "When I take the book into my hands, I become a harukist myself." 

Sankei Shinbun reports on people waiting to get their hands on the book in the Sanseido bookstore at their Kanda Jinbocho location. The bookstore also organized a countdown before the release and an "all-night new-novel reading event" is to follow.

Here is the "unveiling" in Tsutaya in Osaka: 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Two New (Or Not So New) Translations of Tsukuru Tazaki

I wanted to announce two translations of Tsukuru Tazaki into Asian languages, which I have missed before.  One is a translation into Malay by Togari Yasuki and Ali Alman Mazwin, published last year by Buku Fixi, an independent publisher founded in 2011 by film director Amir Muhammad.
The title in Malay is Tsukuru Tazaki tampa warna dan tahun-tahun kembara, which, according to Google translate is a literal rendering of the Japanese title.

Another translation worth noting, also of Tsukuru Tazaki, is that into Vietnamese, by Uyên Thiểm. According to, the book came out in October 2014 from NHI Nam. The title, Tazaki Tsukuru không màu và những năm thing hành hương, also appears to be a faithful translation of the Japanese title.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Italian Translator of Tsukuru Tazaki, Antonietta Pastore, Wins Japanese Translation Prize

I haven't written much on this blog about Italian Murakami translations, probably because I don't speak Italian, but a few days ago today I found that Antonietta Pastore won the 21st Noma Award for the Translation of Japanese Literature.  This is an annual prize given by the Japanese publisher Kodansha, which was awarded to Pastore for her translation of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.


Jay Rubin is the only other Murakami translator to have received the award, which came his way in 2003 for the translation of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.


Here is a link to a 2014 interview with Pastore about the book and its translation.  Apart from works by Murakami -- Wind and Flipper, Men Without Women, A Wild Sheep Chase, South of the Border West of the Sun (with Mimma de Petra), The Elephant Vanishes, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, to name just a few titles --  Pastore has also translated Natsume Soseki, Kawakami Hiromi, and other writers. Her translation of Murakami's Novelist As a Vocation, titled Il mestiere dello scrittore, is due out in mid-February, according to the announcement on the page of Murakami's Italian publisher, Einaudi.

Speaking of awards, as I have mentioned on this blog before, Haruki Murakami won the Hans Christian Andersen Award last year. The award ceremony took place last October in Odense, and was accompanied by a series of events in late October and early November, including readings and interviews in different Danish cities. Mette Holm, Murakami's Danish translator, moderated several of these events. Below is a photo from one lively conversation between Murakami and Holm, which took place on November 2 in the super modern Royal Library in Copenhagen, known as "The Black Diamond." I post this picture because one doesn't often see pictures of Haruki Murakami bursting out laughing. Here is the link to the story on the Library webpage. And here you can see the picture of the library.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Is It Commendatore from Don Giovanni?

I have been discussing the title of the new Murakami novel, Killing Commendatore with my friend, Ursula Gräfe, the German translator.  Ursula made a very interesting suggestion. She thought that perhaps given the author's interest in music, the "Commendatore" might in fact be Il Commendatore, a character from Don Giovanni. Murakami talked about Don Giovanni conducted by Karajan with Seiji Ozawa in Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa, tr. by Jay Rubin.

As many readers will know, in Mozart's opera, Don Giovanni seduces Donna Anna while wearing a mask. Donna Anna thinks he is her fiancé, Don Ottavio. When the truth comes out, her father, Il Commendatore, comes to her rescue. Don Giovanni challenges him to a duel, kills him, and escapes. Il Commendatore later returns as a a statue who comes to life and gets his revenge.

The connection to the opera would explain the use of the word "Commendatore" in the English title. A quick internet search shows that somebody on reddit also thought of that.

The word in the Japanese title, translated as "Commendatore" into English, is  騎士団長, while the character in Don Giovanni is known in Japanese as 騎士団管区長, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Ursula is wrong. 

Don Giovanni (Elliot Madore) duels the Commendatore (Nicholas Masters) in Act I of DON GIOVANNI at the Academy of Music. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Title and Publication Date of the New Murakami Novel Released

Shinchosha, Murakami's Japanese publisher, announced today that the new Murakami novel will appear on February 24. The title will be 騎士団長殺し. I am not sure how to translate this title. The first word means "master/commander of a (con)fraternity of knights, a chivalric order." The second word means "killing." According to yahoo news  and the English title will be Killing CommendatoreThe first volume will be titled 顕れるイデア編 (Ideas That Appear), and the second 遷ろうメタファー編 (Metaphors That Move/Change). 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A New Murakami Novel to Appear in February

The Japanese publisher Shinchosha has just announced that a new long novel by Murakami Haruki is to appear in February. 

A representative of the Marketing Department said, "We don't know any details, such as the title or contents yet, but we are looking forward to it.”


Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Men Without Women" to Come out in English in May 2017

Men without Women, the English-language translation of the short story collection Onna no inai otokotachi, will appear on May 9, 2017.  The collection came out in Japan in 2014, after four of the six stories had appeared in Bungei Shunju and one in Monkey. The English-language edition follows the same pattern, since some of the stories have already been published in The New Yorker.  Here are the titles with links:  "Scheherazade" (October 23, 2014), "Kino" (February 23 and March 5, 2015, and "Yesterday" (9-16 June, 2014). The remaining three ("Independent Organ," "Drive My Car" and "Men without Women") are not available in English yet -- at least not in authorized translations.  

Since the description on the UK Amazon page refers to seven stories, one assumes that the collection will also include the story "Samsa in Love" (The New Yorker, October 28, 2013), as was the case with other language translations, although it wasn't a part of the original Japanese volume. 

Here are the American and the British covers. The translators are Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen. 

You can find the announcements on and The UK page offers the following description:

"A dazzling new collection of short stories--the first major new work of fiction from the beloved, internationally acclaimed, Haruki Murakami since his #1 best-selling Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. 

"Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all. 

"Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic."

 I have written on this blog in the past about the similarity of the title to the 1927 Hemingway collection of stories, "Men without Women." You can find those posts here and here.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Danish Version of Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 to Appear on October 14

Murakami's Danish publisher, Klim, has announced the approaching appearance of the Danish translation of Murakami's first two books, "Pinball 1973" and "Hear the Wind Sing." Translated by Mette Holm, both titles will appear together in one volume on October 14.

Below you can see the somewhat somber but beautiful cover (on the left) and another image (on the right) that I found on a different page. It seems that the book has been designed like the Portuguese and Dutch translations (see the posts of August 23, 2016 and September 16, 2014), where there are two front covers, so that the book can be flipped to read the other novel from the other side.

Mette Holm has just sent me the picture on the left, which shows that it's the sleeve, not the book, that is black. The book appears to be white.

Readers will note from the Danish title, "Flipperspil 1973," that we have here another case (in addition to Polish, Dutch, French, Norwegian, and Portuguese), where the word for "pinball" is derived from the word "flipper."

Which reminds me that I recently ran across this image of a "Murakami pinball machine" from a year ago. Machines like this were apparently set up in two Waterstones bookstores (the London - Piccadilly and Glasgow branches) to celebrate the publication of the books in the UK. Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus claims to be the largest bookstore in Europe, and Waterstones Glasgow on Sauchiehall Street, the biggest in Scotland. You can see more pictures here. It looks like the highest scores won signed copies of the book.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"A Novelist by Profession" to Come Out in German in October

Dumont, the German publisher of Murakami, announced that the 2015 essay collection titled "Shokugyō to shite no shōsetsuka" is to come out in Germany on October 18. The translator is Ursula Gräfe. The German title will be Von Beruf Schriftsteller (literally, "A writer by profession").  The cover is pictured below; link to the announcement here.

The book is also advertised on and on The description emphasizes the fact that Murakami, a writer known for his reserve and reluctance to talk about himself, finally "breaks the silence."

Another book coming out soon is Absolutely Music, which consists of conversations between Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa. It is supposed to appear on November 15, 2016 in Jay Rubin's English translation. The book came out in 2011 from Shinchōsha, followed by a set of CDs in 2013. Here is a link to Knopf's announcement, where the book is described as:
"A deeply personal, intimate conversation about music and writing between the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author and his close friend, the former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. .... It is essential reading for book and music lovers everywhere."


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I Translate Murakami Therefore I Am, Says His Portuguese Translator

I recently came across an interesting article by Murakami's Portuguese translator, Maria João Lourenço, a very personal piece describing how she began to translate Murakami and the influence his writing has had on her life. Near the end of the article, she writes, "Traduzo Murakami logo existo," which means "I translate Murakami, therefore I am." This is a true translator's credo, I would say!  She has this to say about Murakami's writing: 
"O escritor japonês toca uma corda sensível no coração dos seus leitores e obriga as meninges a laborar em pleno."  Loosely translated: "The Japanese writer tugs on the sensitive heartstrings of his readers and forces their brains to work intensively."

You can read the whole article here.

Her translation of Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 (she translates through English) appeared recently from Casa das Letras, Murakami's Portuguese publisher.  The titles are Quve a cancāo do vento and Flíper, 1973, which means that Portuguese (next to Polish and Dutch) also uses the word "fliper" for "pinball." Note also the clever design of the book, with two front covers!   

Also, since I missed the publication of the Spanish and Catalan translations of the same two books, I hasten to make up for it now. The covers are pictured below. The Spanish version came out in October 2015 from Tusquets Editores, translated by Lourdes Porta Fuentes. The Catalan came out in 2015 from Empuries, translated by Albert Nolla Cabellos.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

About Dialect in Chinese and Korean versions of "Yesterday"

I have recently had a chance to talk with Ziyi Xu and Hui Quan from the University of Tokyo. Both do research on Murakami and they have kindly checked the use of dialogue (or more precisely the lack thereof) in the mainland Chinese and Korean versions of the story "Yesterday." 

In the mainland version (published in 2015 by 上海译文出版社) the story was translated by Zhu Jiarong. According to Ziyi Xu, no dialect was used to differentiate Kitaru's speech from Tanimura's. Kitaru is only made to speak in a more colloquial register. Ziyi Xu said that his lines sounded more like "he was from the countryside, rougher."  

The Korean version (2014) was translated by Yang Ŏk-Kwan. According to Hui Quan, the translation apparently shows no trace of dialect either in the lyrics in the beginning or in the dialogue. 

Thank you, Ziyu Xu and Hui Quan, for your help! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Brazilian Men without Women and the Surprises of Google Translate App

A Brazilian Portuguese translation of Onna no inai otokotachi (Men without Women) came out from Editora Objective in January 2015 in a translation by Eunice Suenaga.
The title, Homens sem mulheres has "women" in plural, as in most European versions. I also became curious what happened to Kitaru's Kansai dialect in "Yesterday." Here is the first exchange between Kitaru and the narrator, which I have quoted in earlier posts in other languages.

––  Kitaru é um sobrenome raro, né? –– eu disse.
–– É, é bem raro –– ele respondeu.
–– No Chiba Lotte Marines tinha um arremessador com esse sobrenome. 
–– Ah, ele não tem relação com a gente. Mas, como é um sobrenome bem raro, talvez a gente seja parente distante. (p. 48)

I don't speak Portuguese, but friends tell me that there is not trace of a dialect in Kitaru's speech. 

On another topic: recently I saw on Facebook an advertisement for Google Translate app, which said that you could read and translate signs by posting your phone at them. I decided to try it out for reading covers of Murakami translations. (You open the app, choose the languages you want to translate from and to, and press on the camera icon. Then move your phone over the image with the words you want to read.) 

Here are some of the somewhat surprising results. 

These are some of the translations of the Brazilian cover.  The app clearly struggleswith the words "Haruki Murakami."


Below are some translations of the Russian cover of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. Here, too, the writer's name turns out to be a major obstacle. The first picture is the normal cover, for comparison.

And here is the Turkish Tsukuru Tazaki and its "translation," in which "Haruki Murakami" becomes "Genuine Interview..."

But joking aside, it is an amazing app, allowing one to figure out just enough to know what the title is. And it seems like it would be really convenient when traveling. Unless, of course, one has to deal with proper names... It seems to work a little differently with Japanese or Chinese (you have to "align text" first), but it does work.