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Writer out of control
on 29 December 2011
This is what happens when a writer gets so popular that his editor(s) can no longer advise him, or he refuses to listen. I can't see any other way that this book got published in it's current format.
I've been a Murakami reader for quite some time and have read most of his published work. This book is too long, highly repetitive, and unoriginal in the sense that he is repeatedly regurgitating his own ideas from previous novels. Add to this a translation that is poor and highly irritating, and you have a largely indigestible package.
But all of this could have been, and indeed should have been eliminated by some honest editing. The material itself could happily be cut by half without losing ideas, plot or atmosphere. It took me a while (a long while) to read this book but a lot of the time I felt like I was in Groundhog Day, with the same scenes described with the same language over and over and over. Judicious use of a large red marker could have tightened up the flow and pace dramatically, though I do worry that there are so few original [to Murakami] ideas in the book that eliminating the repetition may have left little.
But clearly the editors were too scared to criticise their master, and instead we have a slow, rambling story where we drift back and forth doing the same thing again and again.
By the time the final novel was handed over for translation into English it was way too late for the English editors to do much about the novel as a whole, but why they allowed such a ridiculous translation to be released I'll never know. The whole book reads like it's been translated in a rush with little care over choice of words. If there was any beautiful prose in the original, none of it survived. In fact, I found myself reading the whole book in a Japanese accent just to make sense of the clumsy grammar and flow. Too much prose makes no sense at all, and while I understand the original language is culturally different from ours, surely it's the job of the translator and editor to make sure the translated work at the very least makes sense? Some of the translation sounds so confused it feels like Google translated it.
But I'd be letting the English team off lightly if I left it at that. Previous translations have demonstrated that Murakami is capable of dazzling feats, and unless he's completely forgotten how to write, the fact that there is no where in this novel that his talent shines it's light, however briefly, suggests to me that the translators and editors didn't do their job with sufficient care.
This book should never been published in this format, that is for certain. But the English version is almost ridiculous.
The fable of the emperor's new clothes comes to mind. Someone should have had the guts to tell Murakami to pull his finger out and work harder. It is not acceptable to rely on previous brilliance and simply dump a stream of consciousness on us without due care and selection.
This book is dull.
If you are new to Murakami and want to read something brilliant, read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. You'll be hard pressed to read a better book.