A fascinating article by Wendy Lesser, in which she discusses the art of translation and has the (all too rare) opportunity to compare two translations of a modern author, in this case Haruki Murakami. Here are versions of the first two paragraphs of his The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, first Jay Rubin’s:
“When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.
“I wanted to ignore the phone, not only because the spaghetti was nearly done, but because Claudio Abbado was bringing the London Symphony to its musical climax.”
And now Alfred Birnbaum’s:
“I’m in the kitchen cooking spaghetti when the woman calls. Another moment until the spaghetti is done; there I am, whistling the prelude to Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra along with the FM radio. Perfect spaghetti-cooking music.
“I hear the telephone ring but tell myself, Ignore it. Let the spaghetti finish cooking. It’s almost done, and besides, Claudio Abbado and the London Symphony Orchestra are coming to a crescendo.”
This comes via Billy’s Blog; I agree with his preference in translators, but I’ll let you decide for yourself before checking with him.
Update. A great discussion about translating Murakami, who I may actually have to read. Thanks, Nelson!