Arbitraging Japaneseness: Translating Haruki Murakami in the West

Anna Zielinska-Elliott, Translator
Monday, September 25, 2017 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm
144 Louis A. Simpson International Building
Anna Zielinska-Elliott
Monday, September 25, 2017 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm

Haruki Murakami has been a best-selling author for almost 40 years,. His worldwide popularity unprecedented for a Japanese writer and his work translated into over 50 languages. Murakami is known for his own style of language, somewhat influenced by English grammar and sounding to some Japanese readers as if it has been translated from English. He is also known for his many references to Western culture, although in recent years more elements of traditional Japanese culture have been appearing in his works. 

This talk analyzes how Murakami’s writings have been modified through translation for different markets, mainly the American market, in order to make him appear less “Japanese” and more “relatable” for the American reader, often by making extensive cuts, abridgments and other editorial changes. The talk also discusses the differences between the American and European approaches to Murakami translation (the latter of which tend to be more foreignizing) using examples from his old and new works. It will also touch the collaboration of Murakami translators into different languages.

Educated in Poland and Japan, Anna Zielinska-Elliott is a translator of modern Japanese literature into Polish. Best known for her translations of Murakami Haruki, she has also translated Mishima Yukio and Yoshimoto Banana. She is the author of a Polish-language monograph on gender in Murakami’s writing [“Haruki Murakami and the Actors in His Theater of Imagination,” 2015], a literary guidebook to Murakami’s Tokyo, and several articles on Murakami and European translation practices relating to contemporary Japanese fiction. She is also the unofficial moderator of the collaborative group of Haruki Murakami’s European translators. Zielinska-Elliott teaches Japanese language, literature, and translation studies at Boston University.

Sponsored by
The Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication