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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Reading Haruki Murakami in English. Lost in Translation or What?

I am reading a book, "A Wild Sheep Chase" by Haruki Murakami. He is a Japanese writer. So probably it is easy for me to read in Japanese but I had a chance to borrow the book in English from a friend of mine, who taught me joy of reading. I like his book, especially this one. This one is easier to read than "After the Quake", his short stories.
I read a few paragraph of "A Wild Sheep Chase" in Japanese online today. It was translated well, I think but now the book was totally different to me. It was strange. When I read it in Japanese, the story takes place in Japan in my brain and in my imagination as I read. But when I read it in English, the story takes place in somewhere else that is not Japan, that doesn't have Japanese culture, even though I see real names of cities or places and Japanese names in the story. I was reading it as if this story happened in America.
We can translate stories from one language to another but translation of languages doesn't bring culture or things about the country the story is taking place into books. As I read the book in English, which was originally write in Japanese, I thought something was missing.
Maybe I feel so because I am not a good reader. Maybe I feel so because I grew up in Japan, where the author is from. I am not saying that the book was terrible or the translation was bad but learned that there are something we can't capture, or something we can't get unless we experienced certain things, in this case culture. I am sure living there and read this book changes how we read this book.
But we can interprete the story as we want. So maybe in the end, it is not that important to feel what I feel when I read this book, especially something from my country. So long as the things the author wanted to tell was there, the culture isn't so important.
People laugh for different things. The other day, the Japanese movie was showned to Americans in N.Y.C. I learned from news that American people laughed at one scene of the movie so hard while Japanese usually cry for the same scene. I was wondering how other people who are not Japanese think about this book written by Haruki Murakami. Do they laugh when I don't laugh? I read Blindness by a Portuguese writer Saramago the other day. I am wondering if I missed something from the book? I read a book and this one was about Mexico and written by Mexican author. I am sure if I know more about the country or lived there, my perspect of the book would have been different.
I am not sure what I want to say now. Oh, well, this is something I was thinking today.


Blogger bereweber said...

this post is very very interesting, i really like what you said about translations and cultures, and how you can't translate or refer to some ideas when you are from another culture

i think my dear friend, we are lucky because we have had the chance to live in different countries and different cultures, and somehow i am starting to realize that even people from your same city and same country and culture sometimes have a very different and unique perception

i think culture and reading and travelling are important because they open the door for the appreciation of different perceptions, you might not never perceive things as other cultures do, but at least you know they exist

i am really happy you read that book by Murakami, i really liked it too, i think it is a little moody and strange specially around the end of the story but also i think Murakami has been able to create a kind of literature that is "globaly accesible" of course, it has a different meaning for everybody and sometimes that's why art is disconcerting huh? but that is what makes it beautiful and unique to each individual too... where are you? when are you coming back? hope to see you soon and that you are having fun in Europe :)

5:34 PM  

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