Visiting the United States

It was not until 1983 that Murakami left Japan for the first time, and that was to run the course of the Athens Marathon.32 At this point he had the Fitzgerald book out, and he had Carver’s Where I’m Calling From on his desk to translate. Then in 1984 he and his wife went to the United States to meet Carver and John Irving. He wanted to translate their work, as well as to visit Princeton for the Fitzgerald aura. He arrived as a “translator” and, while his visits with the authors were memorable, they lasted “an hour or two.”33 Dying of cancer, Raymond Carver was puzzled about why his Japanese translator would visit him. His wife Tess Gallagher “recalls that Murakami presented himself only as a translator, and that his still relatively untested English led to some silences.”34 As for Irving, Murakami owed his interview to a request he made through the US State Department to translate the author’s first novel, Setting Free the Bears. They went for a run together. It’s likely that Murakami learned about literary agents on this trip, for Irving was then dating agent Janet Trumbull, whom he would later marry. These older writers provided his first personal exposure to the ways of the international market.

On return Murakami published translations of Carver (At Night the Salmon Run), Irving (Setting Free the Bears, 1986), Paul Theroux (World’s End, 1987) and C. D. B. Bryan (The Great Dethriffe, 1987). It was a period of increasing commercial sophistication for him. He was learning how World Literature worked, and he correctly guessed that translation would be its linchpin. He also met two more Americans who would be his translators: Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel.

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