Friday, April 15, 2011

Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words - Jay Rubin



Jay Rubin is an American born academic  and  translator, he   has  a Ph.D. in Japanese Literature and currently is a professor at Harvard University. Apart from translating some of the works of Haruki Murakami, he has also written a guide to Japanese, Making Sense of Japanese (original title Gone Fishin) and translated books by Soseki Natsume and Ryūnosuke Akutagawa.

Jay Rubin is also a self-confessed fan of Haruki Murakami  and has written this book as a guide for other fans who would like to learn more about the man behind the books, but who are prevented from doing so by the barrier of the Japanese language. It appears that Jay Rubin has been inundated by a mountain of questions from readers over the years he has been known as a translator of the works of Murakami, combining that with comments on internet forums, has been the inspiration behind this project.

The Translator's Murakami

 Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

After Dark

Norwegian Wood,

after the quake

1Q84 - first two volumes translated by Jay Rubin and the third by Philip Gabriel, will be released in North America and the United Kingdom on October 25, 2011


Where this book does really well is in breaking down the tales of Haruki Murakami,  as Jay Rubin says, that being a translator also means being a critic, and he does a really fantastic job of interpreting the novels and short stories, so much so that he has made me want to reread at least a couple of Murakami’s books. But he kind of scrimps on the autobiographical detail, using just enough to flesh out the exploration of his subjects oeuvre, offering a skeletal history, most of which is either known, or is easily accessible – married whilst at University, opened jazz Bar (peter cat), escaped to America after early success  etc. At first I was a bit disappointed with the meagre offerings on the personal side of one of my favourite authors, and yet it soon became irrelevant, I became fascinated as jay Rubin dissected the stories, offering up his diagnosis, his interpretation of a series of works that have mystified readers for a while now, and in doing so shone a light into the many levels of Haruki Murakami’s novels.


Appendix: A – Translating Murakami.

(1) Translation & globalization.

(2) Translators, Editors, and Publishers.

Appendix: B – A Murakami Bibliography.

Appendix: A, This deals with  Murakami’s  status as a world literary  figure, and the task of translating him into other languages, and the re-translating from a different language other than the source  - for example in 2000 the translation of South of the border, West of the sun into German was a retranslation from the English, which caused some controversy on the German literary scene.

Appendix: B, Is a  Bibliography of Murakami’s books, short stories, Essays, Interviews, Travel Writing, Picture books, Reportage, Illustrated children's books, works translated by Murakami, films, and  special issue magazines (Japanese), plus a small sampling of studies & commentaries on the man in English and Japanese. Blimey, I was amazed at how much was out there, which made this section an interesting read for those who want to find out more.


@parridhlantern said...


I didn't know this book existed, but it looks as though it is something I need to add to my collection. I guess I'd be worried about spoilers for those books I havent read, but it wont be too long before Ive solved that problem and then I'll be able to dive into this one :-) Thanks for drawing it to my attention.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Jackie, this is a great book for all fans of the author,
ps,sorry messed up moderating your comment, so i've pasted it from my email notification.

Anonymous said...

Awesome - if I can find this, it will tide me over to October when 1Q84 is released. Thanks for the review!

Bellezza said...

This is the only Murakami work which I don't own (yet) besides 1Q84 which will be released October 25. Can't wait! Anyway, I know what a powerful tool music is to him; even Norwegian Wood takes it's name from the Beatle's hit. Which I had to look up. I've known the song for forever, but not the title of it. Music? It rather escapes me. At least the stuff which isn't classical.

Tom Cunliffe said...

What an invaluable book that is - I've never heard of it before, but as a fan of HM, I shall seek it out. Thanks for sharing it

Richard said...

I'm about 200 pages into The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and enjoying my first Murakami while still kind of wondering what all the fuss is about. Of course, things haven't really gotten weird yet either! This book you mention here sounds really interesting, though, even if it's lacking in some of that biographical info you were hoping for.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Bellezza, Also it remarks on the influence jazz & its phrasing has had on the musicality of his writing.

Hello Tom. hope you find it (not in kindle ed. I looked) & enjoy.

Hi Richard. yeah, that bothered me to start with, but once i became engrossed in Jay Rubin's analysis of murakami's work, it mattered less, & I think I was a bit harsh as he went into quite a bit of detail concerning the influences om Murakami's writing (Raymond Carver etc.)also with haruki murakami's own translation work, you learn how that's worked into his writing as well.

Anonymous said...

I really must read this ,I think shame rubin not done all of iq84 ,suppose end day it is a time thing ,all the best stu

Novroz said...

I have read this book few years back. it's nice to read another person's point of view on the book.

Bellezza said...

Did you see that we can finally pre-order 1Q84 in English from I almost jumped out of my skin with joyful anticipation!

@parridhlantern said...

It's been pre-order here for a couple of months now, in fact the price has dropped, so even better now.

Chinoiseries said...

You mentioned this book a few times, and it seems that it is indeed a welcome addition to any Murakami fan's bookshelf :) Thanks for reviewing it, now I'm convinced that I've got to order it.

I did not know that 1Q84 was already on pre-order, now to decide which publisher to go for o.O Hurray for hardcover editions!