Murakami’s Translators: Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel

The second translator that Murakami acquired was Jay Rubin, now the most visible face of the translation corps and supposedly the favorite of bilingual readers for the “smoothness” of his translation. He began translating Murakami with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1995), and he won the Noma Translation Award (2003). A Harvard professor, Rubin’s relationship and attitude are informal: “I ask him questions by e-mail now and then, and he responds in a timely fashion; 75% of the time he answers, ‘Do whatever works in English.’ He wants the book to succeed as literature in the target language rather than slavishly adhering to his grammar or sentence structure. He’s a very experienced translator, after all.”72

The third translator is J. Philip Gabriel, a professor at the University of Arizona. He came to Murakami after translating Oe, and has won several translation prizes, including the 2006 PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize for Kafka on the Shore. He has filled a critical gap in the Murakami production system discussed below, handling the overflow. As Murakami’s most important English-language gatekeepers, he and Rubin act as editors as well as translators (see “Murakami and Translation in the New Market” below).

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