Cover Image: Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami

Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami

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I've read a lot (but not all) of Murakami books.   I hope to get to at least a couple of the ones that I haven't read yet by the end of the year.  He is definitely one of my favorite authors...quirky, clever, moody.   

So, when I saw this non-fiction work pop up on a list of upcoming releases I jumped all over it.   In this short book, author David Karashima discusses how Murakami came to be translated into English and gain popularity.  He introduces us to the various translators, editors and publishers who through the past 30 or so years, brought Murakami's books to an English-speaking audience.  Murakami's works were written in Japanese and gained some popularity in Japan.    we also here of Murakami's time in America when he was on staff at Princeton University and Tufts University.  

This book actually not only let me learn more about Murakami but also more about the process of translating a book.  It was fascinating to me.   I read a good number of books in translation and have always wondered a bit about how they are translated.    I recommend this book to any Murakami fan!
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Thanks to Soft Skull Press and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader's Copy!

Now available!

Clearheaded and precise, David Karashima's Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami presents an often underdiscussed topic in translated international fiction. Hardly anyone who reads literary fiction can claim to not know the name Murakami or be immediately absorbed into his world of Japanese magical realism. However, Murakami, or rather the English translation of Murakami, is not who we think he is. By delving into the world of translators, publishers and editors, Karashima takes the reader into a behind the scenes journey of literary fiction, one that we as readers rarely have the chance to enter. It is fascinating to consider, for example, how the order of the novels published makes an impact on an author's ability to break into the American market, how certain words and characters might be dramatically changed by the slight of the translator's hand and the unknowing, long lasting impact it can have. Karashima makes the journey both accessible and entertaining, at times even drawing on a little bit of Murakami's magic himself.
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WHO WE’RE READING WHEN WE’RE READING MURAKAMI by David Karashima is a compelling in depth look at the behind the scenes of bringing the English translations of Haruki Murakami’s early books to the US market.
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I have read and loved several of Murakami’s books so I was immediately interested to read this book. It was really eye opening to learn about all the hard work and passion that went into the English translations of his books. The research and interviews in this book give great insight into the translating and publishing world. It was really enjoyable to read this book which itself is also translated from the Japanese.
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It’s always a true marker for a good book when it inspires you to keep reading. Such is the case with this book. Halfway through reading this book I went to the library to borrow A Wild Sheep Chase.
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I’d definitely recommend this book to Murakami fans!
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Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami by David Karashima is an interesting glimpse at both the work of translating as well as the making of Murakami as an international phenomenon.

First, since I saw at least one review that read the book blurb from a very specific perspective and was thus disappointed, I want to clarify what this book is and isn't. the blurb states clearly this is about the making of Murakami's international fame, not a history of it. So, using my home country as an example, if one reads a book about the making of the US, there probably won't be anything much covered after 1800. Same here, what kick-started the international acclaim was breaking into the US market, so that is what is covered here. To complain that the book does indeed do what it claims just because you misunderstood the blurb and wanted a different book is grossly misleading. Okay, so now we know how to read the book blurb...

This is a fascinating look behind the scenes at how an author becomes known outside the language in which he writes. In this case, it is someone whose fame took off once he was known, in part because of the work of bringing the work to a wider audience and in part because it happened early enough in his career that his growth could be followed by readers in other languages.

I have read several books over the last year or two about translating and the work of translation, mostly written from the perspective of the translator and written in broad terms even when referencing specific works. Those were very interesting and definitely, for me, set the stage for this book. Here we get details about translations of one author but with multiple translators offering insights. We also see just how much the economic side of the equation plays a role. At one point it is mentioned that, if the first foray into the US market had been ten years later, less money thus less attention would have been allocated. Would it have been as successful? Who knows, but it would certainly have had a different trajectory.

While having read Murakami will help to make this book far more interesting, I think readers who are less familiar with his work can still get a lot from it. The specifics of this author and his translations illustrates the range of things, from coincidences to finances to degree of input of the author, that goes into making literature of one culture or language accessible to others.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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