Apr 30, 2012

Haruki Murakami and American Literature

In the previous entry, I wrote, "Haruki Murakami has been deeply influenced by modern American literature, and he translated many of them into Japanese, for example, Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, Raymond Carver, and Raymond Chandler."

I gave a comment to this entry, "I enjoyed reading Haruki Murakami's novel 'The Wind-up Bird Chronicle' very much. ... It didn't feel the least bit "American"."

In Japan, it's the accepted view that Haruki Murakami is influenced by American literature, but in fact I couldn't explain how  "The Wind-up Bird Chronicle" was influenced by American literature. I've easily accepted the stereotype about Haruki Murakami and American literature, but I should think about it by myself again.

Most Japanese critics have pointed out that Haruki Murakami was an outsider of modern Japanese literature, and he's wanted to keep a distance from Japan's literary society. He often talks about how he read modern American literature, but he almost doesn't talk about Japanese literature. I know that he loves Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Carver, but I don't know which author he likes in Japanese literature.

His debut work "Hear the Wind Sing" is almost like a translation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel, and it was clear that Murakami was influenced by American literature. And then he's been building his own style. Actually, I can hardly point out the influence by American literature in the novels "The Wind-up Bird Chronicle" and "1Q84".

The motif of his novels isn't "American", at the same time it isn't Japanese but his own one. But his style of writing seems to be like a translation of foreign literature works. When I read Haruki Murakami's translation of Raymond Chandler's "Long Good Bye", I felt that it was almost like Murakami's own novel and this work reminded me Murakami's "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World". The motif of Raymond Chandler's novels is different from Murakami's, but the styles of writing are similar especially in Murakami's early works.

But I found that Murakami used many expressions, which could hardly be translated into English, when I translated his speech at Catalonia. It is the plan fact that he talked in Japanese, not in English.

For a long time I've been wondering why Murakami didn't write a novel in English, if he wanted to write a novel like American literature. He has been misleading me into believing that he was influenced by American literature. Although he likes American literature, his works has his own motif and style, and he's been writing in "Japanese".

I'd like to know how the readers enjoy Murakami's novels. Do you find "American style" or "Japanese style" in his novels?

Apr 28, 2012

Incommensurability of Literature

The most popular entry in my weblog is "Haruki Murakami's Speech on Catalonia International Prize "As an Unrealistic Dreamer"".

I knew the fact that Haruki Murakami was popular all over the world, but after I wrote this entry, I realized how popular he actually was.

And then I could make a lot of friends who loved Haruki Murakami's works on the Internet. One of them is Ru, who is writing her weblog "Be my knife". She's read many works of Japanese literature mainly in English, and her impressions are always interesting to me.

Of course I, as a native Japanese, read Japanese literature in Japanese, and I read foreign literature almost in Japanese translations. I'm interested in translated works of literature. I wonder if I can understand and taste foreign literature as much as Japanese literature, and at the same time I also wonder how the readers who read Haruki Murakami in foreign language understand and taste his works.

I tried to read some of Haruki Murakami's novels in both of Japanese and English. I felt that the tastes of his novels were preserved in English translation.

I wrote about the relationship between Japanese and western literature in the entry "Multilingualism and Literature". Haruki Murakami has been deeply influenced by modern American literature, and he translated many of them into Japanese, for example, Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, Raymond Carver, and Raymond Chandler. His style of writing is sometimes unnatural for Japanese readers, because it's almost like a translation of an American novel. So I feel that English version is more natural than his original works in Japanese.

In a comment on the weblog "Be My Knife", she wrote that she was reading Tanizaki Junichiro's "The Makioka Sisters (細雪)". It's the most favorite novel in the modern Japanese literature. I've never read it in English, but I think that it's quite difficult to preserve the taste of this novel in English. Kansai dialect, which the Makioka sisters speak, is attractive in this novel, but it could be translated, couldn't it?

I translated Haruki Murakami's speech in on Catalonia International Prize, and many people read it, but I've been anxious about whether I translated the way he spoke in this speech.

Levy Hideo, who was born as a native English speaker, chose to write in Japanese, because he wants to write about the things that he can express only in Japanese.

I'm writing a Japanese weblog and this English one and I write different topics on these weblogs, because I also think that there are some things that I can write about only in English and other things only in Japanese.

I'll go back and forth between Japanese and English.

Apr 23, 2012

"The Dark Knight"

Spoiler warning: Plot and ending of "The Dark Knight" follow.

I'm really looking forward to the last film of the "The Dark Knight" trilogy, "The Dark Knight Rises", which will be released in this summer. So I reviewed "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight". I was quite impressed by them.

The story of "Batman Begins" is about the reason why Bruce Wayne became Batman, and the story of "The Dark Knight" is about overcoming adversity. But at the same time he lost a lot of things and became "the dark knight".

Alfred, a faithful butler of Bruce Wayne, talked to Bruce, when Bruce returned from his work as a Batman with his injury.
Alfred: Now, your limit, master Wayne.
Bruce: Batman has no limit.
Alfred: But you do, sir.
At this time, Bruce hadn't realized the fact that even Batman had his limit.

Harvey Dent, a prosecutor believing in justice, and Bruce were fighting against the evil in Gotham City together. Harvey talked to the citizen of Gotham City about hope.
Harvey: The night is darkest just before dawn. I promise you, "Dawn is coming."
They were "heroes", so they were bound by their morality. For example, Batman could never kill anyone. But their enemy, Joker, was completely free from any rules. He could do anything and drove them into the corner.
Joker: I'm an agent of chaos. Oh, do you know about chaos? It's fear.
Bruce realized his inability and talked to Alfred.
Bruce: What do I have to do?
Alfred: Endure, master Wayne.
And then, Batman tried to wiretap all people in Gotham City in order to find where Joker was.
Batman: Beautiful, isn't it?
Fox: Beautiful, unethical, dangerous. This is wrong.
In the end, Harvey dropped into his dark side like Darth Vader.
Joker: I took Gotham's white knight and I brought him to our level. It wasn't hard. Madness, as you know, is like gravity. All I take is a little push.

Harvey: The world is cruel. The only morality in the cruel world is chance.
Batman dared to suffer the disgrace saving Harvey's honor as Gotham's white knight. At the end of "The Dark Knight", Batman, as a dark knight, was chased by police.
Gordon: He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a dark knight.
I'd like to talk a little about myself.

When I was 20's and 30's, I believed that I had no limit. If I had been serious, I could do anything, I thought. But in fact, I was never so serious and I couldn't accomplish anything.

After I have suffered from depression, I realized that I had my own limit. I asked myself what I had to do and just endured my worthlessness. So I can understand how Harvey and Bruce felt.

I myself can come back to our society. I'm looking forward to seeing how Batman, as a dark knight, will get himself back in "The Dark Knight Rises".

Apr 21, 2012

Journeys along the Historical Stratum: "My China (我的中国)"

I've just finished reading Levy Hideo's essay " My China (我的中国)".

In the previous entry "The World in English 我的英语", I wrote about his essay "The World in Japanese 我的日本语". He is an American author who writes essays and novels in Japanese. He had lived in Taiwan when he was a child, so he also can speak Mandarin. Recently he's made journeys to China by himself and writes about his journey to China in Japanese.

I'm a Japanese and learning English and Chinese now. My English is far much worse than Levy Hideo's Japanese, but I also try to write in foreign languages like him, so I'm quite interested in his works. Today I, as a Japanese, will try to write about a journey to China in English.

At first he began to write in Japanese about Shinjuku, Tokyo in the late 1960s, and then he started visiting Korea and China. He found the "historical stratum" in Shinjuku, Korea, and China. The city Shinjuku in the late 1960s was a mixture of old and modern Japan. Now we can see ancient and post-modern societies in China at the same time.

About twenty years ago I've been to Hong Kong(香港), Kun Ming(昆明), Dali(大理), and Lijian(丽江). At that time Hong Kong was the international modern city, and Kun Ming was just starting modernizing and capitalizing. Dali and Lijian preserved their beautiful ancient towns surrounded by stone walls. I could see ancient, communist, and capitalist societies just in a week journey.

It was a really tough journey. I flew from Hong Kong to Kun Ming. The airport at Kun Ming was small and modest, and no one could speak English. At that time I could only speak a little Chinese, but I couldn't survive without speaking Chinese. I bought a bus ticket with my broken Chinese, and it took ten hours to Dali by bus. And then it took ten more hours to Lijian.

The old towns in Dali and Lijiang were really beautiful. There were many old buildings, which were built of stones several centuries ago, and Bei people (白族) with traditional fashion were walking in the towns. It was just like a time trip.

When I came back to Kun Ming, I went to Holiday Inn to eat breakfast. In Dali and Lijian, I could eat just local food, so I ate toasts with butter and drank coffee. The price of this breakfast was almost five times of the local food dinner in Kun Ming. Holiday Inn was a small island of the Western society in the huge communist ocean.

When I was back to Hong Kong, I felt relieved because I could communicate in English. It was quite exciting to travel around ancient and communist China, but it was quite tough at the same time. I realized that I was a person living in the modern city.

Apr 14, 2012

I'd like to listen to your sad story, but could I l smile while I listen?

I often hear that it's not good to say "gambare (がんばれ)" to someone who is depressed. I can't translate the word "gambare" exactly into English, but it might be something like "Go for it!"

Speaking as someone who has suffered from depression, I myself don't mind people saying  "Go for it", because I understand that the person who is saying "Go for it" has good intentions. I also think, however, that they don't understand my own feelings.

When I feel bad, sometimes I can't even get out of bed. Nor can I think about the things that I have to do. At such times, if someone said to me,"Go for it!", I'd think "Sure, but how?"

I have enough experience now to accept myself who can't do anything but get into the bed when I feel bad, but before I used to feel guilty about my inability too to work before. The tiredness was painful, and at the same time the guiltiness was also painful.

After March 11 2011, many messages were sent to the victims of the earthquake. Most of them were "Go for it" messages. Of course many people would have been encouraged by the phrase "Go for it", so I don't deny it, but I imagine that there were many other people like me who don't know who to "Go for it."

When I hear the message "Go for it", I think of two things.

The people, who say "Go for it", might believe in their own good will, and their belief would make them blind to understand what the victims really feel.

And more the messages "Go for it" are very stereotypic. I've heard that many people saying stereotypic massages. I understand their "good will", but I can't touch their own feelings from their hearts.

Recently I've been listening a lot to  Gen Hoshino's song "The Song of Habits (くせのうた)" very much.

I like the phrase of the lyric of this song.

I'd like to listen to your bad story, but could I listen to it with smiling?

When I find the people who are in time of hardship, I, as an ordinary person, think what I can do for them. At first I try to understand what they are feeling  and the relationship between them and me.

In the end I think that the only thing to say to them is,"I'd like to listen to your bad story, but could I listen to it with smiling?"

I don't know about general depressed patients, but at least I myself would like it if someone were to listen to my bad story with smiling. I also think that some of the victims might think of same thing.

Apr 11, 2012

Paul Stuart and Paul Smith

When I go to work, I wear a business suit. It's a kind of "cosplay" for me. In the morning I change into a business suit, and I can feel my role as a "salaryman".

I used to buy Paul Stuart's suits, shirts and ties. Paul Stuart, which was founded in New York, is a traditional American wear store.

Although I don't know why, I don't look nice in Italian suits, and I think that British suits are too traditional for me. So I liked Paul Stuart's suits and when I wear them, I feel as if I were a businessman working in Manhattan. (It's New Yorker "cosplay" for me.)

I was one of the regulars at the Paul Stuart store in Ginza, Tokyo. I also loved the atmosphere and the staff members of this store. It was really nice and cozy to talk with familiar staffs and to choose new suits, shirts and ties.

But Paul Stuart Japan was bought by a Japanese apparel maker, Sanyo Shokai, and everything had changed. Paul Stuart Japan was "Japanized" and lost its New York flavor. I couldn't do New Yorker's "cosplay" wearing Paul Stuart's suits any more. I have great regrets about it, but I won't visit Paul Stuart store in Ginza, Tokyo.

Last summer I made a journey to the East coast of the U.S. and I visited the Paul Stuart store near Grand Central Terminal in New York. I enjoyed buying a shirt with broad blue stripes, which was very popular among New Yorkers.

But I can't visit the Paul Stuart store in New York very often, so I've changed the store where I buy business suits. Now I wear Paul Smith business suits. Paul Smith is a British designer but the suits aren't too conservative and look smart.

Now I go to the office wearing a Paul Smith business suit "cosplaying" a snob "saralyman".

Paul Stuart Japan
Paul Stuart U.S.
Paul Smith Japan
Paul Smith U.K.