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The “Eurokami” Effect: Translating Haruki Murakami in Europe

Posted By admin On May 30, 2013 @ 1:22 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Literature and the Arts | Comments Disabled

Ika Kaminka, free-lance translator (Norway)

Anna Zielinska-Elliott, translator (Boston University)

Haruki Murakami is well known as a blockbuster author of contemporary global fiction. Is it true that he writes with an eye to the English translation of his work? If so, what happens when, as is very often the case, his work is translated into other languages? This panel gathers three European translators of Haruki Murakami to discuss his translation into European languages other than English. Focusing upon Murakami’s mega novel, 1Q84, which was published in several languages before the English translation appeared in the fall of 2011, panelists ask how the absence of a “hegemonic” English version influenced the European translations. Most broadly, the panel offers a comparison of Murakami in European languages versus Murakami in English: “Eurokami” vs. “Anglokami.”

Rebecca Suter has argued that, “Unlike most of Japanese postwar fiction, Murakami’s texts do not represent Western influences as something dangerous and corrupting, but instead use Western culture as a basis to construct a multilayered image of reality” (Suter 2008, 189). Yet the language representing the West in Murakami’s writing is almost invariably English, although he has occasionally experimented with including some phrases in Chinese or Greek. The English language is in a way the sounding board against which all “foreignness” is bounced. From the translator’s point of view, it is therefore interesting to look at the problems that arise when his writing is translated into other foreign languages, which stand in a similar position to English as Japanese.

Participants will initiate the discussion by explaining translation strategies in handling the various problems the text presents, some of them representative of any translation from Japanese, and others belonging to Murakami alone. These include such elements as shifting tense and narrative fluctuation between first and third person, which are characteristic of traditional Japanese literary prose. The panel investigates the ways in which different translators have dealt with these challenges, both by examining the translations themselves and by reviewing the results of a survey conducted by the Danish translator, Mette Holm in the summer of 2011. The respondents were: Vibeke Emond (Sweden), Ursula Gräfe (Germany), Mette Holm (Denmark), Tomáš Jurkovič (Czech Republic), Ika Kaminka (Norway), Dmitri Kovalenin (Russia), Hélène Morita (France), Jacques Westerhoven (Netherlands), and Anna Zielinska-Elliott (Poland).

Murakami makes use of the full array of writing systems available in the Japanese language, playing with words in the katakana syllabary and letting people speak in the hiragana syllabary only, without using Chinese-character kanji. This makes possible a rich variety of wordplay and a very characteristic visual literary texture. Furthermore, as Suter has remarked, Murakami’s exploitation of Japanese polygraphy amounts to a “double operation of domestication and estrangement” (Suter 2008, 73). Does that operation retain its power when translated into other languages than English? The panel responds to this question by discussing strategies for handling the English expressions and American references that appear natural in the English translation, but which stand out in other European languages, as they do in Japanese.

Article printed from NAJAKS – Nordic Association of Japanese and Korean Studies: http://www.najaks.org

URL to article: http://www.najaks.org/?p=958