Novels in Japanese


Roughly two months before I leave for Hiroshima. Time is creepy up slowly on me. I have plenty of things I need to accomplish before I go. While I’m worried about it, I’m sure I can get it all done. It would be no good if I didn’t. I’ve definitely gone too far to give up now.

Recently (a month ago?) one of my friends went to Japan to renew his visa. While he was there he bought me both halves of Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

It’s been my favorite novel since I first read it, and I’ve read it plenty of times in English. It’s easy to read so many times because it contains so many subtle riddles – things that are never explicitly answered. In an interview he said himself that multiple reading was required to get all of it. I still have yet to unravel it all. In any other novel this may be irksome, but Murakami pulls it off with a certain charm. That and one of the characters, Oshima, is just about the coolest fictional character I’ve ever encountered. He makes me wonder if the author is really as wise as his character. An odd thought to ponder, but sometimes characters take on characteristics the authors never knew they had somewhere in them.

Reading the novel in Japanese makes me realize how far I have to go on learning the language itself. At the same time it’s wonderful practice. If you read a kanji enough, you begin to learn the meaning. If you see the grammar enough, it begins to make sense. It’s also a delight to see things phrased how the author originally intended. It’s interesting to see where the translators decided to take liberties – and sometimes interesting to ponder why.

As I’ve said, I have to work a lot harder to learn Japanese to an acceptable level. I want to become a translator someday, and I’m realizing how far off that dream is. As of yet, I can’t read novels whose English stories I don’t know intimately.

Which brings me to my next point: I’m also fond of Ryu Murakami (no relation to Haruki). I read his work Coin Locker Babies last year and have been fascinated by it ever since. I happen to be fond of visual kei music, and within this sub-genre you see references to the novel all the time. There are video games that draw their inspiration from it as well (i.e Silent Hill 4).

And while we delve into my love of Japanese contemporary fiction and nerdier things like video games, I recently found out that a masterpiece of a video game, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, was actually partially based on one of Murakami’s novels entitled The World After Five Minutes. Apparently it was the setting that was taken away from the novel. The setting is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating portions of the game; a post-apocalyptic society that moves underground when the above world has been destroyed. As pollution sets in the people become so desperate that they go to harmful measures to keep it at bay. I’m not sure how much of this came from the novel, but after the major setting in Coin Locker Babies, a district named ‘Toxitown’, I can imagine.

Needless to say I want to get my hands on the original, but I have a lot of work first. Kanji and grammar and all of that good stuff.



~ by megumiwasframed on August 8, 2010.

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