Monday, July 9, 2012

Reading Words: 1Q84

Haruki Murakami, 2011

I've never read anything by Murakami before, so I don't know if the sprawling, sometimes tedious narrative including minor characters that seem to contribute very little to the plot, repetitiveness indicating a lack of confidence in readers' attention, or fixation on breasts are trademarks of this author's style. I do know that as a writer, a reader, and a lover of parallel universes, these complaints weren't enough to ruin the story for me.  If you're any of the three, I'd suggest you give the book a try.

But what was most interesting to me as I read the book was the ever apparent truth that it was a translation.  Every time I reached a passage that didn't flow properly or a sentence that didn't quite make sense, I questioned whether it was Murakami's writing that made it so or simply a lack of proper English equivalent.  Most fascinating to me was the use of, "I wonder."  Used repeatedly as a kind of substitute (I assume) for "Hmm," or "I don't know," the phrase really grew on me by the end of the 900+ pages. When a character said something another character didn't understand or couldn't answer, he didn't shrug it off with, "I don't know."  He left it open for future discussion with, "I wonder."  I'm sure it's a result of the translator choosing the words closest to the actual Japanese expression, but I found myself asking whether our real life plots might go further if we switched to that phrase in our own conversations.  I wonder.

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