Who We’re Reading When We’re Reading Murakami

by David Karashima

List Price: $16.95
Paperback | 384 pages | ISBN 9781593765897

On Sale 09/01/2020

A rare look inside the making of the “Murakami Industry”—and a thought-provoking exploration of the role of translators and editors in the creation of global literary culture.

Thirty years ago, when Haruki Murakami’s works were first being translated, they were part of a series of pocket-sized English-learning guides released only in Japan. Today his books are in fifty languages and have won prizes and sold millions of copies globally. How did a loner destined for a niche domestic audience become one of the most famous writers alive? This book tells one key part of the story. Its cast includes an expat trained in art history who never intended to become a translator; a Chinese-American ex-academic who never planned to work as an editor; and other publishing professionals in New York, London, and Tokyo who together introduced a pop-inflected, unexpected Japanese voice to the wider literary world.

David Karashima synthesizes research, correspondence, and interviews with dozens of individuals—including Murakami himself—to examine how countless behind-the-scenes choices over the course of many years worked to build an internationally celebrated author’s persona and oeuvre. He looks beyond the “Murakami Industry” toward larger questions: How active a role should translators and editors play in framing their writers’ texts? What does it mean to translate and edit “for a market”? How does Japanese culture get packaged and exported for the West?

Karashima, a Japanese novelist and translator, has conducted a profound riff on the art of translation in considering the work of Haruki Murakami, and how it differs in English from its original publications in Japanese. Tracking the work of the major Murakami translators who have rendered his work into English, this book shows the way it is shaped, edited, and reformed by who is working on it . . . A must read for translators and fans of Murakami alike.

—John Freeman, Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

A fascinatingly detailed account that enables the reader to gradually grasp how winding and tricky the trail bends from one culture to another, and how dependent individual literary success is on the creative and logistical whims of a selected team of enablers . . . A book not so much about 村上春樹, the Japanese writer, but rather about ‘Haruki Murakami,’ the English variant of his moniker, and also not-so-coincidentally the brand name that has spread throughout the whole globe . . . About how international bridges are built, one sympathetic brick at a time.


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