Friday, June 27, 2014

The world of Haruki Murakami expands for Mongolia with ‘1Q84’

The Mongolian translation of the three volume book “1Q84”, by Haruki Murakami, was released on June 26 at Internom Bookstore. Haruki Murakami is a famous Japanese novelist whose books have been translated in 50 different languages and sold millions of copies across the world. His works are classified as surreal, nihilistic and contemporary. Murakami has won numerous awards including the World Fantasy Award (2006), the Franz Kafka Prize (2006) and the Jerusalem Prize (2009). He has been said to be one of the greatest living novelists. He has also translated many famous western books into Japanese, such as “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the complete works of Raymond Carver.

“1Q84” was first released in 2009 in Japan, and the novel quickly become a sensation worldwide. The first printing in Japan sold out on its release day.

Translator O.Jargalsaikhan officially translated two of the three volumes of “1Q84”. Monsudar Press chose Jargalsaikhan to translate “1Q84” and hopes for her to translate the third volume soon. I asked her about the difficulties she faced during her translation, and she said, “It was quite hard to translate what he means exactly. When you first read [his work] you understand it in one way, and when you read it another time it transforms into something else. So I worked very hard to ascertain what he really meant behind his words.” She also warned Mongolian translators that translation is a direct thing, texts should not be filtered through the translator’s perspective, but should only be concentrated on how to put the writer’s ideas into another language.

Translator Tegshzaya said a few words during the book release. Before reading Murakami’s books, she remembered asking herself, “He is not a mystery writer, he is not an adventure writer, and he is not an erotic writer. Then what kind of writing could be that interesting and addictive?” However, after reading his books, she concluded that Murakami’s readers get connected to his world as he allows them to experience the story from the protagonist’s perspective, which takes place in our modern world.

Previously, Murakami’s short story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning” was translated from English by Ayurzana. And B.Gerel translated his most renowned book, “Norwegian Wood” into Mongolian.

In “1Q84”, “Q” signifies the number nine (nine is “kyu” in Japanese). It takes place in the year 1984 in Tokyo, where a young woman exits an emergency staircase on an elevated highway, just to enter a parallel universe where the very nature of reality is changed. The book is a combination of two different stories occurring simultaneously, and at the end, intertwining. Murakami is used to this writing style, as he wrote in a similar manner for “Kafka on the Shore” and “After Dark”. The revolutionary book “1984”, by George Orwell, inspired the name of Murakami’s novel. Interestingly, Murakami often names his books after his favorite songs, for example, “Norwegian Wood” (after the Beatles song) and “Dance, Dance, Dance” (after the Beach Boys song).

Murakami was born in Kyoto, in 1949. His childhood and teenage years were spent immersed in the rich literature of western books by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franz Kafka, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens and so on. That is why his writing style differs significantly from those of his Japanese contemporaries. He graduated from Waseda University with a major in drama. Just like other young people at the time, he did not know what to choose as his profession, he only knew that he wanted to read. During his university years he met his wife Yoko, which inspired his fiction novel “Norwegian Wood”.

Murakami started writing when he was 29 and the idea to write came upon him when he was watching a baseball game. Whether the baseball game inspired him to start writing, or the time just came for him to write, is still debatable for him. Before that, he used to own a jazz bar, therefore his writing is greatly influenced by music, especially jazz, classical and rock and roll. His first novel, “Hear the Wind Sing”, received a youth literary prize. It is really rare for a writer to win a renowned prize for their first novel. Generally, writers have peak and low times in their literary careers but Murakami is an exception, his readers cherish all of his books equally.

He writes novels that are both surreal and real at the same time. Some people even say that his short stories are even better than his novels, but he considers himself a novelist, because a novel takes much effort and perseverance. He usually writes about loneliness, alienation, cats, women’s ears, music, books and the simplest things in a meditative way. His writing style flows like a river, with the use of simple words and precise logic. His books usually contain surreal, unrealistic occurrences happening to the most ordinary people. His imagination is very original, in that it will fully satisfy your intellectual need for magic and philosophical contemplation at just the right amount.

Behind his wild imagination lies a very highly regimented life. He wakes up every day at 4 a.m., goes running or swimming, and starts to work on his writing for five to six hours. The rest of the day is spent listening to music and reading. His non-fiction book “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”, is a personal memoir on running. He said writing honestly about running and writing honestly about himself is the same thing. He is a marathon runner, and he also started entering triathlons. The reason behind his running tendencies is his will to move his body to balance his imagination and reality. He once said, no matter how simple and boring one action may seem, keep at it long enough. It can become a contemplative, even a meditative act, which explains his preference for monotone activities.

All of his protagonists somehow resemble Murakami, taking on wild adventures and on the way, experiencing highly surrealistic events that seem very real, involving odd natured women, enigmatic cats, and philosophical but very down to earth conversations, which makes Murakami’s works memorable and unique.

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