MURAKAMI Haruki, 57 years old, one of Japan’s leading writers currently, made himself famous with his remarkable works such as “Norwegian Wood”, “Kafka on the shore” and so on. His works have been translated into over 30 languages, and he is the most celebrated Japanese writer after NATSUME Soseki, KAWABATA Yasunari, MISHIMA Yukio and OE Kensaburo.
On the 25 and 26 of March this year, an international workshop symposium named “A Wild Haruki Chase How the World is Reading and Translating Murakami”, organised by the Japan Foundation, was held in Tokyo. Translators, writers and critics from 16 countries were invited to this event to analyse and discuss the attraction in “Murakami Literature”.
This workshop-symposium, which was held in Komaba Campus in the University of Tokyo, attracted about 600 “Murakami fans” who were selected randomly by the organiser, and was made a big news throughout Japan through the country’s media. It can be said that the event was greatly successful.
Although English and Japanese were used during the symposium, all of us felt that our common language is “MURAKAMI Haruki”
As one of the translators for Murakami’s works, I was invited to this symposium as well. The presence of so many Murakami fans impressed me the most. Nonetheless, I suppose the most loyal Murakami fans will be us the translators from all four corners of the globe. For instance, Professor Jay Rubin from United States of American claimed that when he was teaching in Harvard University, he could go on and on about Murakami’s works till his students became tired of his stories. He feels that the talented Murakami is able to bring out the wonders hidden within our everyday life skilfully, and that it is his powerful writing ability which made his works so appealing to the readers.
Professor and Head of Research Center of Japanese Studies, Korea University, Kim Choon Mie from Korea, stated that Murakami’s works provide pleasure and comfort to the readers at the same time. To her, Murakami Literature is a type of “healing literature”, which gives people joy and solace. She also noted us that Korean readers do not have the “he is a Japanese” impression towards Murakami, instead, they accept his works as cultural exchange products.
There were two types of workshops during the event the Translation Workshop and the Representative Workshop. I attended the former one.
While the Translation Workshop was held, we engaged in a discussion regarding technical problems faced when translating Murakami’s works. The Japanese-Chinese translators racked their brains while trying to translate terms in katakana frequently found in the stories. On the other hand, the Japanese-English translatos did not face any difficulty in similar problems at all.
Besides that, everyone agreed that the onomatopoeias found in the stories were not so easy to tackle. This is probably due to the fact that onomatopoeias are expressions typically found in languages like Japanese, and they are not so commonly found in other languages.
After the symposium, we lodged at Yamanakako for two days. We had a lot of interactions with people from the Japan Foundation at the breath-taking Yamanakako we visited the MISHIMA Yukio Memorial Hall, and enjoyed watching “Tony Takitani”, a movie based on one of Murakami’s works. That was truly a successful “international bonding session” which will linger in our memories.
Also, MURAKAMI Haruki will be awarded the Frank Kafka Literature Award in Prague later this year. It is said that this award is a prelude to the upcoming Noble Prize which will be held at the end of this year, whose last two recipients both won the Noble Prize shortly afterward. Therefore some supposed that MURAKAMI is the winner of the Noble Prize in Literature this year.
Murakami fascinates the readers through a simple but fresh selection of words and his unique style of writing. He skilfully portrays the feeling of loss and loneliness within modern people, producing resonance among readers of different origins, languages and culture. He is, indeed, an outstanding promoter of urban literature.
The symposium was definitely benefiting. Thanks to this symposium, many international friendships bloomed. We, the translators, are planning to create a website named “The Haruki Chase Network”. Through this website, we hope that we will be able to exchange views regarding translations, and have more interactions with the readers in the near future.
Ye Hui Freelance writer at Nanyang Siang Pau / Translator