Who We’re Reading When We’re Reading Murakami


This book will satisfy every reader avid for knowledge – and we consider ourselves to be such persons in Tajfuny.

The title cleverly refers to the work of Raymond Carver, of whom Murakami is a huge fan and translator into Japanese, and whom he was inspired by when he wrote his essays What I Talk About When Talk About Running. However, it is somewhat misleading. It might seem that we will get a book in which we will learn about the profiles of Murakami’s translators and their approach to the text, maybe their struggle with the attempt to render the language of the Rat, Creta Kanō and Kafka in a completely different linguistic world. Who We’re Reading When We’re Reading Murakami, however, focuses on a rather narrow area – the years 1985-1998 and the figures of two men: Alfred Birnbaum and Elmer Luke.


The first is a translator, the second an editor, and both contributed to the “transfer” of Murakami’s prose to the United States. But their story really ends when the writer’s career begins to gain momentum.

It’s worth taking a look at this book if you’re curious about how the publishing world (especially in the US) works as a business. Who decides who is to be published? How much does the author have to say? How much does the translator? How important is the editor in this process? And the agent? Is literary talent sufficient, or do you need a series of fortunate events and a meeting of people who will make a number of decisions for you?

I dream of a continuation of this story and – even brief – information about other countries, other translators and editors and their discoveries.

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