Sunday, February 11, 2018

Chinese Translation of Killing Commendatore Took Only 85 Days, Says Lin Shaohua, the Translator

The mainland Chinese translation of Killing Commendatore will be released on March 10 from Shanghai Translation Publishing. It is already possible to preorder the book -- and those who do will receive a free copy of a new edition of Norwegian Wood that was published in 2017 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the book's publication.

The initial print run is to be 700, 000 copies. Below is an image of the book, which, like the original Japanese version, will be published in two volumes. One wonders why the English title was put on the cover.

What makes the story of this translation amazing is the speed with which the translator, Lin Shaohua, completed the work. Lin has been translating Murakami for many years. Among his credits are Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, 1973, Dance, Dance, Dance, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, Sputnik Sweetheart, Kafka on the Shore, All God's Children Can Dance, The End of the World and Hard-Boiled Wonderland, South of the Border, West of the Sun, A Wild Sheep Chase, After Dark, along with many essays, travelogues, etc. 

In an article found in the online journal Pengpai, Lin describes how he worked on the book. Apparently he took himself out to the countryside and, working every day armed only with a stack of paper and a ballpoint pen, managed to finish translating the 1050-page book in 85 days!  While I can see how this could be done -- Lin's pace works out to about 12.5 pages per day -- in my case, life often seems to get in the way of translating and I am only in the middle of Volume Two myself.  This is a case of true dedication. Lin said that, after he was done, his brain was fine but his hand hurt (and this is another amazing part -- a translator writing in longhand!), and the editor offered to send him some Chinese medicine. The article can be found here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

German Translation of Killing Commendatore out Today!

The German translation of the first volume of Killing Commendatore, Murakami's latest novel, came out today from Dumont. It is titled Die Ermordung des Commendatore and was translated by the excellent Ursula Gräfe. Lucky German readers!

The cover is beautiful; readers who are Facebook users can see what is hidden under the dust jacket here:


Sunday, January 7, 2018

English Translation of Killing Commendatore to Come Out on September 18th

Mette Holm, the Danish translator of Murakami, who always manages to stay on top of the all the Murakami news, let me know yesterday that the publication date of the English translation of Killing Commendatore was announced on The novel will be translated by Ted Goossen and Philip Gabriel and will be published in the UK by Harvill Secker. Presumably the American version by Knopf will appear on the same day. The book can already be preordered, but no cover image is available yet.

Here is a the screenshot from The book's appearance in September was also announced on Financial Times Book Preview 2018.

While the website does not specify this, one is led to assume that, as in the past, the original multi-volume work will appear in one volume in English.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Visualizing Translation: Continued

In an earlier post I wrote about translating a chapter from Killing Commendatore, in which Boku finds an old painting in the attic. I wrote about how after reaching on the internet for different ways  people imagined the painting helped mi visualize it and write (or: translate) about it.

I went through a similar process when translating Chapter 16. In that chapter Boku, a professional portrait painter, is working on a portrait of Menshiki (whom I also tried to imagine with internet's help). The process starts from sketching Menshiki, who poses for his portrait. But later the painter continues painting from memory and allowing his subconscious to take over and for the inspiration for colors and textures to emerge from within. He describes adding thick black lines to create a "skeleton" of the portrait, and later adds white, green and orange. Gradually Menshiki's face becomes invisible but Menshiki is still present in the painting. This is perhaps a bit of a spoiler, but let me just say that Menshiki really likes the resulting portrait.

I tried to imagine what the portrait might have looked like and then remembered that the webpage where I have found different versions of Killing Commendatore painting also provided somebody's visualization of different stages of the portrait's creation. Here are the images, which you can find at:




Thursday, December 14, 2017

Taiwanese Translation of Killing Commendatore Came out on December 12

The Chinese translation of Haruki Murakami's newest book, Killing Commendatore, appeared in bookstores in Taipei on December 12, although the official publication date was December 8.  (This is the version in traditional characters; a simplified-character mainland Chinese translation by Lin Shaohua is supposedly in the works.)  The publisher is China Times, and the translator is the tireless Lai Ming Chu. Tireless, because she is, I believe, the author of the first Murakami translation into any foreign language, and because she has translated almost all of his works, including novels, shorts stories, essays, travelogues, etc.

The blue and white books on the left are the paperback versions, and the colorful ones on the right are  from the hardcover boxed set.

And here is Lai Ming Chu with her "Murakami shelf" in a bookstore in Taipei.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Dutch Translation of Volume I of Killing Commendatore Came out on December 1st!

As announced on September on this blog, the first European translation of Killing Commendatore was published by Atlas Contact on December 1st. The co-translators from Dutch are Elbrich Fennema and Luk van Haute. 

On her public Facebook page, What I think about when I translate Murakami, Fennema wrote:

"It is always a moment of magic to feel an actual, factual book in your hands, even though as a translator I know the content inside out. For months Luk and I ( co-translaters) could keep our options open, simmer over choices, make adjustments. But the text is now fixated in the form of a book. And something strange happens: in print it all of a sudden looks like it was always there. As if Killing Commendatore is an obvious concept.
Of course it wasn't always like that...
As translators we struggled with the right word in Dutch for 'Killing'. Was it murder? Manslaugher? Self defense? At times translating felt a lot like detective work: looking for clues, magnifying glass in hand. After 1000 pages, we are confident to conclude that it is definitely a case of murder..."

Volume II is to appear on January 12, Murakami's birthday. 
And now we are waiting for the German translation by Ursula Gräfe, which -- at least as far as I know -- will be next. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Bakery Attack(s) comes out in Turkish

Murakami’s “The Bakery Attack” and “The Second Bakery Attack” have been published in Turkish this month as Fırın Saldırısı with Kat Menschik’s illustrations. The publisher is Doǧan Kitap and the book was translated from Japanese by Ali Volkan Erdemir. 

This is the third Murakami book in Turkish, after Sleep (2015, tr. by Hüsseyin Can Erkin) and The Strange Library (2017, tr. by Ali Volkan Erdemir)with Kat Menschik’s illustrations. To read more about Turkish translations of Murakami see the blog post of July 29, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Visualizing Translation: Reflections on Translating Killing Commendatore

I have been working on the Polish translation of Killing Commendatore for a few months now. This time I have decided to try an experiment: instead of reading the entire book beforehand, and then starting on the translation, I am reading and translating simultaneously, sentence by sentence.  It has been an interesting experience. I have had to go back a lot and fix things, as they became clear, but this approach made it possible to translate without knowing what is coming on the next page, which has been novel and exciting. It has also merged the act of reading with the act of translating, so I am able to experience the book in a way close to a normal reader.

In the course of translating, every now and then I look up things on the Internet, wondering about how other readers have experienced the book or imagined its characters, and seeing if there is anything there that might be useful to me as I work. One of the characters I wondered about is Wataru Menshiki, a mysterious rich businessmen, whose portrait the protagonist undertakes to paint. According to the description in the book, he has regular features, a broad mouth, and completely white hair, despite being only 54.  Surfing the blogosphere, I discovered a tweet by Momoyakko, who felt that that this description of Menshiki would make him the spitting image of the famous composer, Ryūichi Sakamoto, shown here:

Another person (posting on the blog for people struggling with social interactions) first imagined Menshiki as the singer and actor Yūya Uchida, but later (maybe after having read about Menshiki's broad mouth and pointy ears), decided to draw an original portrait of Menshiki himself or herself. S/he even included a table listing all of Menshiki's characteristic features and traced the process of the portrait's creation, which I will write about in a different post.
You can see the whole post here:

image source:

The title of the novel, Killing Commendatore, comes from a painting the protagonist finds in the house he has rented.  The scene appearing in the painting -- the killing of Commendatore -- is, as I have suggested in an earlier post,  inspired by Don Giovanni, but the painting is executed in Japanese style (Nihonga) and portrays figures from the Asuka period (538-710).

Here is how one person (who does not like Murakami's writing but took part in a group reading of the novel with friends) imagined it. This person admitted that s/he didn't know what a nihonga would look like. (

Here is another blog author's rendition (

While I have found the different images of Menshiki helpful (I had also thought of Ryūichi Sakamoto), the two drawings of the painting, while fun, were not really useful in terms of helping with translation.

For those who like graphic novels, here is a rebus-like rendition of the book. The title translates as "How to understand Killing Commendatore in one minute."

Some additional thoughts on visualization: When translating a character, I often imagine a person among my relatives or friends whom the character reminds me of -- this helps me create the Polish version of the character, especially in terms of endowing him or her with certain speech habits. Doing things this way can, I believe, help make the character more real. Of course, one cannot overdo it, so the model won't recognize himself or herself in the translation.

Murakami writes about this same approach -- obviously, in terms of writing, not translating -- in Chapter 9 of a book of essays on writing, Novelist As a Vocation, where he says that he occasionally uses some features of people he knows, but doesn't usually create characters fully based on real people.  Incidentally, these essays have just appeared in my translation in Polish; the book is not available in English yet.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

First European Translations of Killing Commendatore To Appear In a Few Months

Following the incredibly fast Korean translation, European publishers are beginning to announce the publication dates of Haruki Murakami’s newest novel, Killing Commendatore.  The Dutch publisher of Murakami, Atlas Contact, announced on their page that Volume I will appear on 1 December 2017.  Volume II will be published on 12 January 2018 (Haruki Murakami’s 69th birthday). The book will be translated by Elbrich Fennema (who was one of the translators of Men Without Women) and Luk Van Haute. Here are pictures of the covers:

The German publication dates have also just been announced. Dumont, Murakami’s German publisher, will issue Volume I on 22 January, and Volume II on  16 April 2018. Ursula Gräfe is working on both volumes. Here are the covers:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Novelist as a Vocation out in Polish Next Week

Haruki Murakami's book of essays on writing, titled in Japanese Shokugyō to shite no shōsetsuka (which some refer to as "advice for young writers), is coming out in Polish next week from Muza S.A. in my translation. 

In English, I believe only one of the eleven essays, titled, "So What Shall I Write About?" has been published so far, appearing in Volume 5 of Monkey Business (2015) in a translation by Ted Goossen. 
You can read a short fragment of the essay here:
or you can buy the issue here:

On the webpage of Curtis-Brown, Murakami's European agent, it says that the US publication of the entire book is planned for 2019. 

In terms of translation into European languages, the book has already appeared in German, Italian (both of which I have announced on this blog earlier), and also in Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Czech.

The Spanish edition, translated by Fernando Cordobés and Yoko Ogihara, came out in April 2017 from Tusquets. Interestingly, the Spanish title is De qué hablo cuando hablo de scriber, or, "What I talk about when I talk about writing," which plays on the title of another book by Murakami, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running.  This in turn, of course, played on the title of a Raymond Carver story, "What We Talk about When We Talk about Love." The Catalan edition used the same trick in the title, De què parlo quan parole d'escriure, which was translated by Jordi Mas López and published by Editorial Empúries in April 2017. 

The Brazilian translation, by Eunice Suenaga, also came out in April 2017 under the title, Romancista como vocação, from Editora Objectiva/Alfaguara. The Czech version, by Tomáš Jurkovič, came out in April this year as well from Odeon, and was titled, Spisovatel jako povolání. Both titles seem to use words close to the English word "vocation" for the Japanese shokugyō.  The Swedish translation, by Yukiko Duke, will come out from Norstedts in October of this year. 


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Men without Women and Other Haruki Murakami Books in Turkish Translation

Having missed the publication of the Turkish version of Men without Women, which came out in January 2016 from Doğan Kitap in a translation by Ali Volkan Erdemir, I began to wonder about other Turkish translations. After some internet research, I discovered that a total of fourteen of Murakami's books have been translated by four different translators.  Taking these in reverse chronological order:

Murakami's latest Turkish translator is Ali Volkan Erdemir, who teaches Japanese literature at Erciyes University. He is also a translator of Oe and an author of books on Japan. He is pictured below along with the covers of the Murakami works he translated before Men without WomenSputnik Sweetheart (2016), After Dark (2017) and The Strange Library (2017).


Before Erdemir, for many years, Murakami's main Turkish translator was Hüseyin Can Erkin, professor of Japanese Language and Literature at Ankara University, previously mentioned in this blog. At left is a photograph from his departmental page.  In addition to Murakami, Erkin has also translated Mishima, Oe, Tanizaki, Kawabata, Abe Kōbō and other writers. Below are the covers of Erkin's translations of Murakami: Kafka on the Shore (2009), 1Q84 (2012), Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (2011),  What I Talk about When I Talk about Running (2013), Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki (2014), and Sleep (2015), with illustrations by Kat Menschik.


Four Murakami novels were published in Turkish prior to 2009:  Norwegian Wood (2004, Skim, tr. Nihal Önol),  The Wind Up Bird Chronicle (2005, Ekim, tr. by Nihal Önol), South of the Border, West of the Sun (2007, Temmuz, tr. Pinar Polat), and A Wild Sheep Chase (2008, Ekim, tr. Nihal Önol).  However, none of these was done directly from Japanese: Nihal Önol translated from the French  and Pinar Polat from the English (thanks to Ali Volkan Erdemir for this information!).  Indeed, the Turkish title of Norwegian Wood, İmkânsızın Şarkısımeans something like "Song of the impossible," which makes sense if the book was translated from French, where the title was La ballade de l'impossible (tr. by Rose-Marie Makino-Fayolle). 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Korean Translation of Killing Commendatore Is Already Out!

The Korean translation of Haruki Murakami's latest novel, Kishidanchōgoroshi, came out on July 12, not quite five months after its Japanese premiere. The translator is Hong Eun-Ju, and the publisher is Munhakdongne Publishing Group.

Five months is a very short time to translate, edit, and publish a 1050-page-long novel!  We probably won't see any European translations until next year.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Some Thoughts on Murakami by Two American Translators

Tom Power and Ted Goossen from
A recorded interview with Ted Goossen, one of Murakami's current translators and a professor at York University, was published on June 5, on the Canadian website of cbc radio. The interview is titled "The joys and challenges of translating Haruki Murakami's work" and the interviewer is Tom Power. You find out about Goossen's translation process and also how Murakami and Goossen met. I noticed one mistake by Power, who stated that Murakami has been translated into more than 40 languages, but in fact it is more than 50.

You can listen to the interview here:

Thinking about Ted Goossen brought to mind another Murakami-related article written by Stephen Snyder, professor of Japanese Studies at Middlebury College and a well-known translator of Japanese literature (but not of Murakami). It appeared a few months ago, in January 2017 and was titled "The Murakami Effect: on the Homogenizing Dangers of Easily Translated Literature."

Snyder writes about the publishing industry and the way Murakami's ("easily translated") works have been marketed globally. He compares Murakami's short story "Samsa in Love" (you can read it here on the New Yorker page) translated by Ted Goossen with Minae Mizumura's A True Novel in Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. Mizumura's writing is given as an example of not-so-easily translated literature. The story of A True Novel is loosely based on the plot of Wuthering Heights, but it is set in post-war Japan.  (It is a great book and I recommend it for a long and lazy summer reading!). "Samsa in Love" was inspired by Kafka's The Metamorphosis. 

The article makes many interesting points and offers the following comments about connections between Murakami's writing and translation:

Murakami’s work begins and ends in translation. He creates fictions that are both translatable and embody translation in their themes and methods. His work moves between languages and cultures (and, perhaps particularly, into and out of English) with relative ease and fluidity, with few textual and stylistic impediments or difficult cultural contexts, but, rather, various mechanisms and textual markers that seem to invite and insist on translation as both theme and practice.

I certainly agree with this statement. One result of that technique, and of the fact that, as Snyder says, Murakami "moves between languages and cultures (and, perhaps particularly, into and out of English)" is that in their English translations Murakami's works lose some of the Western flavor they have in Japanese, which early Japanese critics used to refer to as "stinking of butter" ( バターくさい) .  Somewhat paradoxically, that quality is retained in translations into other languages, where borrowings from English continue to stand out -- although perhaps not to the degree they stand out in Japanese.

You can read whole the article here:

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Translator's Visibility - Translating Murakami Live

Mette Holm, the Danish translator of Murakami, is translating live at a trendy art gallery in Copenhagen, Espace 10-4 . The event -- really a "happening" -- is called "Killing Commendatore - tableau vivant," and has been going on since June 1.

Here is a picture of the translator at work from the gallery's Facebook page (to which I found a link on the gallery's website).

This event is a unique opportunity to see a translator at work, rendering her "real" instead of an invisible being behind a name on the book's inside cover. That it is taking place in an art gallery drives home the point that a translator is in fact a creator in his or her own right.

This is an advertisement from the gallery's website:


Mette Holm is accompanied by Christine Bechameil, an artist who paints portraits of passersby when they decide to stop (and sit) and watch Mette work. This has the effect of turning window-shoppers into the subject of the window's gaze.

Here is one of the portraits posted on the gallery's website.

It is a little hard to tell from the photo, but there appears to be a screen on the left with projected text. Perhaps it shows the progress of Mette's translation? Short fragments have been posted on the website.

Haruki Murakami is extremely popular in Denmark. He has visited the country more than once, last time in October 2017 to receive the Andersen Prize. Mette is a celebrity as his translator, giving many talks and lectures about translation and Murakami's writing, trying to bring the process closer to the readers and fans.