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Translation Night Tale
Murakami Haruki × Shibata Motoyuki
Date:06, Mar, 2019
Investigated and Written by Misaka Youhei
About our introductory articles


Translation Night Tale published in 2000 autumn consists of the 3 forums for English-Japanese translation held by Murakami Haruki and Shibata Motoyuki. In 1996, Shibata worked as a teacher in Tokyo University. One day, he held a forum for translation. Murakami made a guest appearance in the workshop. The 1st forum is it. The 2nd shows a 1999 forum at a translation college by the two. And in 2000 spring, Shibata held the 3rd with Murakami, inviting the 6 young English-Japanese translators that Shibata personally put his faith in like Kishimoto Sachiko and Kuroyanagi Kazuyo.

I never consider that we need a lot of words for explaining what Murakami Haruki (1949-) is. He is the most popular novelist among the Japanese ones in life. He has also worked as an English-Japanese translator for this (almost) 4 decades. In 1979, he made his debut with his virgin novel Hear the Wind Sing that won the 22nd Gunzo Prize. It's said that he thought he could maybe work as a translator at the time when he won the prize. It tells how much he is fond of translation.

What has Murakami Haruki translated? He has mainly done works of some American letters' authors like Scott K. Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler and J. D. Salinger. It means that he has also acted as an important mediator between America and Japan in culture for this (almost) 4 decades, not only as a world-class novelist.

As you know, however, everybody is a beginner when he/she enters the field. Murakami was so, of course. He got to translate a long story Setting Free the Bears (John Irving, 1968) in the middle of his 30's. He had just translated short stories and hadn't a novel. He was unsure of completing the translation. Then, he asked an editor in his acquaintance to let somebody check his translation. The editor agreed to the request, and formed a temporary checking group that consisted of 5 translators at once. Shibata Motoyuki was there as one of them. It's said they have associated ever since.

Shibata Motoyuki was an English-Japanese translator who was born in 1954 Tokyo. Same as Murakami, he has translated the works of some American modern letters' authors like Paul Auster, Steven Millhauser, Richard Powers and Rebecca Brown at unbelievable speed. Not a few young translators follow him. As mentioned above, he had for a long time worked as a teacher in Tokyo University, and retired in 2014. Today you can find him (changelessly) active as a translator and an editor of the Monkey.

It means that the two outstanding English-Japanese translators in Japan converse about translation in the 3 forums of Translation Night Tale. Why are they so fond of translation? What delight has been brought to them through translating? Just two men's opinion! Now in 2019 March, we can find the Japanese edition at book stores, but no English. I guess that it is pretty difficult to translate this into English.

About Translation Night Tale

・Talks by Murakami Haruki & Shibata Motoyuki
・Published by Bungei Shunju in 2000