As part of my self-study in translation I was interested in how texts have been translated to several target languages. To best look at this, on this occasion I have chosen to look at the works of Haruki Murakami, and I will primarily be looking at translations from Japanese into English and Italian.
NB: I understand that there are elements of personal choice on the side of the translator, and also language constraints which explain why texts have been translated in such ways. This post is a high-level approach to translation analysis and represents only the musings and opinions of this budding translator.
The first text I looked at was ノルウェーの森 (Norwegian Wood in English).
I own this novel in both my target languages (English and Italian), as well as my source language. The English version was translated by Jay Rubin, and the Italian by Giorgio Amitrano.
For those of you who are not familiar with the story of ノルウェーの森, the title has been taken from the Beatles song by the same name. My Italian copy is also entitled Norwegian Wood, however the novel has also been published in Italy as Tokyo Blues. A quick look on Wikipedia shows that in many languages the title is a version of either Norwegian Wood or Tokyo Blues, with the exception of French where the title has been translated as La Ballade de L’impossible.
After looking at the title I was interested in how the names of the characters had been translated.
In Japanese the names are as follows: トオル、直子、緑.
As expected, the names in English and Italian are simply romanisations of the originals. However, a difference must be noted on how the long vowel in トオル is dealt with. The English translation is Toru, and it can be seen that the long vowel has been ignored. In Italian the name of the protagonist is Tōru with the macron diacritical mark (part of Hepburn romanisation) indicating the long vowel. I hope to look at Hepburn Romanisation more closely in a future post.
In this initial analysis the final thing I wanted to look at was the first sentence of the first chapter in each version of the novel.
English: I was 37 then, strapped in my seat as the huge 747 plunged through dense cloud cover on approach to Hamburg airport.
Italian: Avevo trentasette anni, ed ero seduto a bordo di un Boeing 747.
It is clear that, in this case, the Italian is closer to being a ‘word for word’ translation. The English is in fact a combination of the first 2 sentences. This shows the literary freedom a translator may have when translating. Note that in the English the word Boeing has also been omitted, possibly because 747 is sufficient to portray what type of plane the protagonist is sat on.
For a further comparison I also looked at the first sentence in another of Murakami’s novels ねじまき鳥クロニクル (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle / L’uccello che girava le viti del mondo).
English: When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along to an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.
Italian: Avevo la pasta sul fuoco in cucina, quando squillò il telefono.
Obviously yet again the English is longer as it is the combination of more than one original sentence. The Italian is also on this occasion almost the same as the Japanese.
This is where I stop for this post. I was just looking to note down my initial thoughts after looking at these novels. Hopefully in the future I will be able to update on anything else I notice. Please let me know if there is anything in particular you think I should look at!