Every time best-selling author Haruki Murakami puts out a book, his international fans cannot wait to have his latest work translated to English. And once it is finally in English form, it starts a whole new wave of interest in the acclaimed writer once again. He owes his international success to his loyal team of translators, and bringing his work to life in English isn’t always an easy task.
Philip Gabriel, a professor of Japanese literature at the University of Arizona, is tasked with translating Murakami’s newest book, Shikisai o Motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to, Kare no Junrei no Toshi (“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”). He plans to finish the work by the end of the year, and publication is targeted by 2014. While we might hear a collective groan from those eager to finally read his first book in three years, translation takes a little longer because there are some things, like the names of the characters, that are difficult to do since it needs a little more explanation than when the names are in kanji. Gabriel promised though that this book, while a little more “somber and serious” than his previous work, is realistic and hopeful. He usually reserves his questions for the author when he is already at the end of his work and he is always “helpful” in responding. Since Murakami is also himself a translator, “he understands the difficulties and challenges of translation very well,” Gabriel adds.
Jay Rubin, a former Harvard University professor of Japanese literature, is also currently translating Ozawa Seiji-san to, Ongaku ni Tsuite Hanashi o Suru (“Talking with Seiji Ozawa about music”), a 2011 non-fiction work by Murakami based on his interview with the internationally acclaimed conductor. Rubin said that the challenge in translating his work comes from not making his short sentences and use of ordinary things into “boring English”. He wasn’t interested in contemporary Japanese fiction at first, having studied modern Japanese literature like Natsume Soseki’s work. But after evaluating Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, he decided to read everything that Murakami had written. The translation was eventually done by Alfred Birnbaum, but Rubin wants to do his own version in the future.
[ via Asahi Shimbun ]