The Lot of the World Famous Translator in Japan

I have to say, it’s perfect that Murakami does translation in the afternoon to relax after a morning of writing.

Murakami of course knows that he needs to be translated in order to be read widely. He is very conscious of the power of translation, being himself one of Japan’s most important translators of American literature. He has long collaborated with Motoyuki Shibata, a well-known professor of English literature at the University of Tokyo, who has his own flourishing career as a translator. Of course, both men are admired as great stylists in Japanese, and that attracts readers to the authors they choose to translate.

Murakami does his translation work in the afternoons, for relaxation, after doing his own writing in the morning. By now, he must have over 50 volumes of translated literature (see a sample in the bibliography of my Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words). Shibata recently retired his professorship to give himself more time to translate (Paul Auster, Stuart Dybek, Barry Yourgrau, Steven Millhauser, Thomas Pynchon [Mason and Dixon in 2 fat volumes!]).

In a development unthinkable in America, Shibata was the subject of a 150-page feature in a glossy magazine, complete with moody photos of the translator in evocative settings. Earlier, he and Murakami were subjected to a more academic book-length study demonstrating how their translating had influenced literary style in general in Japan.

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