Murakami, Translation, and Descriptions of Food?
June 20, 2015 9:56 PM   Subscribe

Would the Japanese text of a Murakami novel bother elaborating that oyakodon is "rice topped with chicken and eggs" - or is that bit of text added by the translator for the benefit of foreign-language (English, in this case) readers?

(example from 1Q84, p.808)
posted by unmake to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a Japanese copy that I can check, but I'd wager that was added by the translator -- every Japanese person knows what oyakodon is, and it's not Murakami's style to waste a lot of redundant words.

(I'll note, not having read 1Q84, that Jay Rubin did the translation. I admire Jay Rubin a lot as a guy who tries to de-mystify and un-exoticize the Japanese language -- so explaining oyakodon, rendering it a plain and ordinary thing, rice topped with chicken and eggs, may very well be motivated by the same philosophy.)
posted by Jeanne at 10:20 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

That's pretty much like writing "enjoying a juicy hamburger—a ground beef patty and assorted toppings between a split bun" so although I also can't compare to the original I'm also gonna say it's very likely to be a localization addition.
posted by Mizu at 10:43 PM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just checked the Japanese (3 volume) set. Jeanne & Mizu are correct, it just says oyakodon. Everybody knows what it is, and it's not even the sort of thing Murakami explains how to make. (It's not spaghetti, after all!)
posted by spacewrench at 10:58 PM on June 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

That's done a lot in translations of Murakami's work, FWIW; I'm reading "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years Of Pilgrimage" and there are similar things that are done in the translation (can't find any specific examples at the moment, but they're there).
posted by holborne at 11:10 PM on June 20, 2015

Non-Japanese audiences won't understand the dish without translation. It is similar to if I wrote an English novel mentioning beef stroganoff The translation would describe it. Or not, I suppose, depending on their sensibilities.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:32 PM on June 20, 2015

Best answer: Translator here. Translations undergo several editing cycles, much like the work of creation does. When I translate an untranslatable word, or a specific name of a dish, for instance, it is customary to drop a bracket in after the word, with a brief explanation. I'll then go back and forth with an editor, honing that brief explanation to the fewest words possible. The goal is by final edit to have it fit seamlessly into the translated text, where it will hopefully not draw too much attention, thereby alerting the reader to the "translation", which many feel distracts from the reading experience itself
posted by msali at 8:13 PM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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