“The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles” by Haruki Murakami

I originally posted this to a Livejournal community a few years ago, but wanted to repost it here with some following thoughts that I’ve had since:

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I’m surprised that, now I think to check, nobody’s put any of Haruki Murakami’s novels in the taglist or memorable entries. I’ve found his meandering, often trippy narratives very entertaining and at times disturbing.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles being the most recent I have read, I’d like to take the opportunity to reccomend it to everyone here. It’s been translated into English for quite some time, and can probably be found in any Borders or Dymocks. Based on a short story initially published in one of his anthologies (Murakami writes a novel one year, and a short story collection the next), it follows a middle-aged Japanese man on a Tuesday.

Having left his job, he completes housework while his wife continues in the workforce. On Tuesday he needs to make dinner, and go looking for their lost cat, who is named after a distasteful relative.

The plot is slow, but ever-present. It involves, as many Murakami novels do, a surreal interaction between this world and some other, supernatural, plane of being. What begins as a normal story following a very normal man is slowly revealed to be a very strange and twisted story following someone who was, debateably, never quite normal.

Although not as disturbing as, say, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, another Murakami novel, I truly enjoyed The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, and was at loose ends for two days while I made my way through it. I was caught up, and unable to stop worrying about the characters.

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A few months ago, I ran across some information that suggested that The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles had been cut and re-ordered and edited significantly during translation. I got caught up in the horror of it, and vowed to renew my Kanji practice so that one day I could read this book in its’ raw state. But that was before today, when I ran across this site. It is a discussion between translators that has some interesting insights into the history of Japanese translated literature in English, but also into the Japanese publishing and editing process.

Popular authors, one translator says, often undergo far less editorial attention; their books are rushed out. Murakami has been known to edit and alter parts of his text on subsequent publications, and that the edits for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles involved at one time Murakami sending possible cuts across to the translator/editor, and the translator sending a complete cut and edited English text back. The process is much more symbiotic than I expected, and fascinating. I’ll still press on with my studies and aim to read Murakami’s novels (and many others on my list) in their native Japanese, but until then I’ll be happy to read the discussion in the link posted above.


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