Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - When Languages Meet: Murakami Haruki and Creation of New Language Style Through Translation

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Mahogany, First Floor

It is often said that Murakami Haruki’s writing style is plain and easy to translate into English partly because of his intense exposure to the styles of American writers and influence from English. Indeed, Murakami introduces various English expressions (e.g. “by a hair’s breadth” “packed like sardines” “as cool as a cucumber” and so forth) and incorporates English syntax in his Japanese writing, which, in addition to his rhythmical sentences and unconventional use of metaphors, generates an exotic flavor and a layer of meanings new to the Japanese readership. Yet, the freshness of his language is less felt when his works are translated into and consumed in English from which Murakami is said to have borrowed his linguistic inspiration, therefore, ending up reinforcing the impression that his writing style lacks creativity. Issues of translation loom large when considering those extra-textual elements that cannot be translated, and yet crucial in understanding why Murakami became an iconic figure. This includes, for example, literary landscape of the 1980s in Japan against which Murakami made a (sensational) debut and a linguistic stagnation felt in the existing practices of writing at the time he started his career. My research aims to consider the popularity of Murakami’s works in the context of linguistic innovation that took place around the 1980s and explores the correlation between social/cultural and linguistic transformation in the postwar period, to which I draw on genbun-itchi movement and impact of translation on literati in the Meiji period as the point of comparative analysis.

Chie Tokuyama

University of Oregon, United States

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2 - When Languages Meet: Murakami Haruki and Creation of New Language Style Through Translation



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