Early Murakami

For those without a whole lot of cash to pitch at some dealer on eBay, you may get your chance to read Pinball, 1973 sooner than you think.

Haruki Murakami’s major works have long been available in the United States, but the author has refused too allow distribution of his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973, both of which are narrative precursors to A Wild Sheep Chase, well-known to readers in English. According to CNN Go,translations for the first two were released by the Japanese publisher Kodansha as English study aids. They went out of print in the late ’90s, and Ebay prices have skyrocketed enough over the intervening decade for Kodansha to unleash the editions on Amazon Japan.

Can an English translation be far off?


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A few copies of the Kodansha translations of these two novels have made their way to the shelves of university libraries in the United States. Your local library shoud be able to borrow them for you on interlibrary loan. It worked for me.

That being said, the books aren’t very good. I understand why Murakami doesn’t want them read overseas.

The translation of Pinball (done by Alfred Birnbaum) is actually available online as a pdf, and has been for a while, per this post from The Millions:

http://www.themillions.com/2007/05/rare-treat-for-murakami-fans-pinball_17.html

Honestly, I would be much more excited to read a unabridged translation of the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

I agree that these books are far from his best, but if you like the Murakami of Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance they’re worth it (at a reasonable price). I was obsessed with Murakami back in the 90s and had a friend who picked these when they were easy to find in Japan.

Re Wind-up Bird, I thought the story was that Murakami actually preferred the revised shorter version he created in collaboration with Jay Rubin? I remember reading Rubin’s comments on that not long ago (and possibly via this same blog).

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