Zhang Mingmin 張明敏
Taipei: Lianhe Wenxue, Unitas Publishing Co. 聯合文學出版社, 2009
Reviewed by Hiroko Matsuzaki (Post-Doctoral Fellow, UC-Santa Barbara; HYI Visiting Fellow, 2011-12)
If you were to ask someone in Taiwan to name one Japanese writer, most of them would likely say “Haruki Murakami.” His name is well known in Taiwan, as it is in many other places across the world. Tran Anh Hung directed the film adaptation of Murakami’s novel, Norwegian Wood (1987). The film was released in Japan on December 10, 2010. Just a week later, on December 17, 2010, the film was released in Taiwan with the catchphrase “this winter’s required subject of love.” The film adaptation of Norwegian Wood stirred excitement in the Taiwan literary world, and the name “Haruki Murakami” became the talk of the media. You could find his name in the Taiwanese major literary magazine Liange Wenxue (UNITAS), which published a special issue entitled, “The Film Adaptation of Norwegian Wood: The Standing Matter Edition.” In addition, Murakami drew the attention of the Taiwanese mass media, and his name and the film adaptation of his novel made the front page of the four largest Taiwanese newspapers, Literary Times, China Times, United Daily News and Apple Daily. Furthermore, the Taipei flagship store of Uniqlo, a leading Japanese clothing retail chain, which was opened in October, 2010, sold Norwegian Wood designer T-shirts. More recently, Murakami’s latest novel 1Q84 Books 1 and 2 were translated into Chinese by Mingzhu Lai (Reading Time Publishing Co.) and more than 200,000 copies were sold (Wen Wei Po, September 13, 2010). Book 3 was also translated by Mingzhu Lai and published in October, 2010. A long interview with Murakami appeared in the Japanese journal The Thinker, and the summer issue in 2010 was also translated to Chinese by Mingzhu Lai and published on January, 2011 by Reading Time Publishing Company in book form under the title, After 1Q84—The Feature Story—A Long Interview With Haruki Murakami. It seems that the “Murakami phenomenon” has no bounds in Taiwan. What is the factor that makes Taiwanese so receptive to Haruki Murakami?
Mingmin Zhang’s monograph, Translation and Culture of Murakami Haruki in Taiwan, traces the origins of the Murakami craze and analyzes the dawn of Murakami’s works in translation, as well as their transformation and evolution. Zhang lived and worked in the United States for seven years, after she earned a M.Ed. at Columbia University. She earned a Ph.D. at Fu Jen Catholic University in Comparative Literature and a M.A at National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology in Practical Japanese. This book is based on her Ph.D. dissertation. What led her to Murakami’s literary works and the studies of Japanese literature and translation was an encounter with his essay A Distant Drum, which she bought from a street peddler in Manhattan, New York. At present, Zhang is Assistant Professor of Practical Foreign Language Studies at Ching Yun University.
This book is composed of five chapters and opens with the Introduction, “Research Motivations and Foundations.” It also features a list of Murakami’s works in translation and secondary materials on him. In “Research Motivations and Foundations,” Zhang argues that translated literature can be a part of “Ethnic Literature” or “Nation Literature,” and for an example cites Murakami’s short story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning,” which appeared as a question on the national achievement test for junior high school. Zhang states the following as her main questions: on the introduction of Haruki Murakami as translated literature into Taiwan, what were the motives, strategies, and standards of the translators? How did publishing companies regard Haruki Murakami? How do literary critics and scholars view Murakami’s translated literature? Why has Murakami’s translated literature become popular in Taiwan? What is the difference between the “Murakami phenomenon” in Taiwan and that in Japan?
In Chapter 1, “Translated Japanese Literature in Taiwan: After 1945,” in addition to Murakami, Zhang discusses the translation of Japanese literature in postwar Taiwan, while comparing the translations of other foreign literature. According to Zhang, from 1945 to the 1970s, Japan-related matters were prohibited from the pages of any publication. Generally speaking, Zhang argues that the Taiwanese people were more fond of the United States than Japan because of the U.S. economic and military support; but the number of Japanese literary works that were translated and published in Taiwan had nevertheless increased from fourteen books to one hundred and thirty three books between the 1950s and the 1970s. American literary works that were translated in Taiwan had increased from twenty books to sixty books during the same period, which reveals a threefold increase. Interestingly, these translations of American literature into Chinese right after war were done mainly through already available Japanese translations. Zhang speculates the paucity of Chinese translations of Japanese literary works during the 1950s to be due to the fact that Taiwan still had a large number of people who could read Japanese. As stated by Zhang, the following four Japanese novels became best sellers in Taiwan: Saneatsu Mushakōji’s Love and Death (1950), Ayako Miura’s Freezing Point (1966), Kawabata Yasunari’s novels (1968) and Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood (1989). Minzhu Lai already translated Murakami’s Pinball, 1973 and A Perfect Days for Kangaroos into Chinese, which were published by Reading Time Publishing Company; but Norwegian Wood was translated to Chinese by a group of five translators, and was published by Guxiang Chubanshe. At that time, Guxiang Chubanshe advertised that the novel was a “100% erotic novel,” while in Japan the catchphrase was a “100% romance novel.” On the jacket an illustration of two nude females was paired with phrases in elegant Chinese. From these points, we can see how the publishing company aimed to draw readers and market the book in a way to boost sales.
In Chapter 2 “Translation of Haruki Murakami’s Literature in Taiwan,” Zhang analyzes the translation phenomena of Murakami’s works and divides them into five periods: (1) 1985~89, (2) 1990~94, (3) 1995~99, (4) 2000~2004, (5) 2005~08. Murakami’s style attracted Minzhu Lai’s attention, and in 1985, she translated selected passages of Murakami’s works, and submitted them to Xinshu Yuekan magazine. It is important to note that this became the first translation of Haruki Murakami’s works both in Taiwan and in the world. In 1986, Yuhang Chen, the editor of Reading Time Publishing Company, published A Perfect Day for Kangaroos, translated by Mingzhu Lai under the title Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl, which easily caught the attention of readers. These events suggest that not only the translator Lai, but also the editor Chen, became important “re-writers” of Murakami literature. In addition to Guxiang Chubanshe, which published the translation of Norwegian Wood, many other publishing companies also jumped on the bandwagon and began publishing translations of Murakami’s works one after another. However, this blossoming period of Murakami translation ended with the revision of the Taiwan copyright law in 1990. Reading Time Publishing Company received the copyright permission from Murakami, and published retranslations of the other works that had been published by the other companies. As a result, the publication of Murakami translations became a lucrative venture for Reading Time Publishing Company. Zhang also mentions that there were key events brought Taiwanese readers closer to Murakami. A letter from Murakami to Taiwanese readers appeared in China Times, and long-time translator Mingzhu Lai interviewed Murakami in Tokyo. Zhang also explains that after 2005, the age range of Murakami readers diversified, as they included junior high school students, business professionals, graduate students, entertainers, politicians, and so on. Through a close examination of the reception of the Murakami’s works in translation, we can see that Murakami’s name is well established in Taiwanese society. Chapter 3, “The Cultural Translation of Haruki Murakami in Taiwan” supports the explanation of these findings.
In Chapter 3, Zhang argues that the lasting effect of the “Murakami phenomena” is the support formed through interactions among re-writers or sponsors—namely, publishing companies and translators—and public readers and fans of Murakami. As others have argued, translations of foreign texts have the power to create the imagined communities of the foreign land in other territories inhabited by different linguistic cultures. Zhang analyses how Murakami’s literary works captivate Taiwanese readers living in a postmodern society. Murakami’s novels represent postmodern society, so the settings in them are familiar to readers born in the mid 1980s. Finally, Zhang argues that Murakami’s works can be viewed as a symbol of “cultural consumption” in Taiwanese society.
Chapter 4, “The Translation and Cultural Translation of Norwegian Wood in Taiwan” compares the translated versions of Norwegian Wood in Taiwan, and analyzes how this novel was received by Taiwanese people and as a result expanded into a cultural translation. Zhang indicates that Taiwanese readers of Murakami’s works became well informed regarding the “self” and internalized this view, a process that can be described as cultural consumption initiated by the translation of Murakami’s literature. For instance, the lyrics of South of the Border—the theme song of Cape No.7, a successful Taiwanese movie released in 2008—echo the concepts behind Murakami’s Hear the Wind Sing and Norwegian Wood. The lyricist admits Murakami’s influence on his work. There is an opinion that because the song lacked Taiwanese subjectivity it was inappropriate for the film, which represented Taiwanese subjectivity as Cape No.7. However, Zhang does not agree with this view and argues that by consuming translations of Murakami’s literature and internalizing them on their own terms, Taiwanese readers create their own new culture, which in effect becomes their subjectivity.
Chapter 5, “The Translated Literature of Haruki Murakami and Re-Writing by Chinese Narration,” insists that translated literature is important because it forms a part of national literature. For example, when we describe the many young Taiwanese writers “being influenced by Haruki Murakami,” we frequently overlook the process of translation and re-writing. However, these writers influenced by Murakami are influenced directly by the translator, namely, Mingzhu Lai. Taiwanese readers represent the unique phenomena of reception of Murakami’s translated works as another translation: a cultural translation. This book argues that re-writing has ample creative power to re-write not only literature and literary history, but also, to a certain extent, history itself. As long as Taiwanese society continues to change and reshape itself, Murakami’s translated works and their cultural translation also will continue to change and take new forms. At the same time, it is possible that these works in translation and their cultural translation will rewrite the history of Taiwan society.
In this book, Zhang mentions the translations of two scholarly works on Haruki Murakami’s literature: Haruki Murakami and The Music of Words (2002) by Jay Rubin, a professor at Harvard University, and China in Murakami Haruki (Murakami Haruki no naka no chūgoku) by Shōzō Fujii, a professor at The University of Tokyo. The authors of these publications became important re-writers for Taiwanese readers of Murakami. Similarly, it is certain that this book itself would be a significant rewriter for translated literature and cultural translation of Murakami in Taiwan, as it is the first study about Murakami’s literature in Taiwan written in Chinese by a Taiwanese scholar.