Who We’re Reading When We’re Reading Murakami

by David Karashima

List Price: $16.95
Paperback | 5.5 x 8.2, 304 pages | ISBN 9781593765897

On Sale 09/01/2020

How did a loner destined for a niche domestic audience become one of the most famous writers alive? 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-size English-learning guides released only in Japan. Today his books can be read 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. His careful look inside the making of the “Murakami Industry” uncovers larger questions: What role do 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?

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.

Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

When a work of fiction touches someone, it becomes contagious, swimming into new worlds through the lives and spirits of its readers; when a work of fiction is translated, it is reborn. There is something intensely human in this miraculous process, though that something is often lost in the larger currents that surround it. This book shows us, in all their warmth and sincerity, and through their own earnest words, the people who make translations possible.

—Sayaka Murata, author of Convenience Store Woman

An astonishingly thorough and illuminating look at the way that Murakami became recognized, and at all the people--translators in particular--who made it possible by the decisions they made. Karashima’s book is a hands-on and very frank look at the social construction of a literary reputation.

—Brian Evenson, author of Song for the Unraveling of the World and Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Writer/editor Luke and novelist/translator Karashima have pulled together a diverse collection of new and previously published nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and a manga to create "an artistic record" of a people’s response to an unimaginable disaster. The writers are mostly Japanese--including major names like Yoko Ogawa and Ryu Murakami--translated into English by an impressive list of powerhouse translators. . . . the impetus behind each individual piece is heartfelt.

—Terry Hong, The Christian Science Monitor

March Was Made of Yarn isn’t just an excellent anthology of work related to the Tōhoku disasters; it’s an excellent Japanese literary anthology period. The range of authors represented by the book has the most even distribution of gender, generation, and genre I’ve ever encountered, and the English-language contributors, such as David Peace and John Burnham Schwartz, bring an added level of flavor and diversity . . . I don’t know how so many good things were able to come together to create this amazing book, but I am extraordinarily grateful that it exits.

Contemporary Japanese Literature

March Was Made of Yarn, an important collection of essays, stories, poems and manga, is the powerful and timely response of Japan’s most talented writers.

—Min Jin Lee, The Times of London

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