Monday, 15 February 2010

限りなく透明に近いブルー Almost Transparent Blue (page 1)

[Limitlessly Almost Transparent Blue: Though the Japanese title begins 限りなく, it is beyond me as to how it should be skilfully interpreted. Infinitely, Nearly Transparent Blue; A Blue so Close to Being Transparent as to be Limitlessly so; Blue Verging on Transparent Without Limit... Were some of my half-hearted, clumsy attempts to introduce infinity to Ryū Murakami's wonderful first novella's title. In the end, however, I can only defer to Nancy Andrew's immutable solution of omitting the infinite.]


It was not the sound of an airplane; it was the buzzing of an insect flying behind my ear. Somewhat smaller than a common fly, for a short time it circled before my eyes, then disappeared into a dark corner of the room.


A ceiling light reflects from the round white table, upon which there is an ashtray made of glass. A long, thin cigarette with lipstick on the filter smoulders inside. Near the edge of the table is a pear-shaped bottle of wine, on whose label is depicted a blonde woman stuffing grapes into her mouth from a bunch in her hand. On the surface of some wine in a glass, the reflection of the red ceiling light wavers. The ends of the table legs are hidden, sunk beneath the thick weave of the carpet. Across from me is a large vanity table. A woman sits before it, her back soaked with sweat. She stretches one of her legs, rolls down a black stocking, and then pulls it off.




“Hey, gimme' that towel, will you? The pink one. You got it?”

So says Lilly, as she flings the rolled up stocking in my direction. She's just come back from work, she says, and with her fingers she lightly pats the lotion she's holding onto her sweat-drenched forehead.

“So what happened next?”

[Thus runs the first page of R. Murakami's Limitlessly Almost Transparent Buruu. When I did this, I made a point of not looking at Nancy Andrew's translation; as soon as I had finished, however, I checked mine against hers, and I found it quite exhilarating, comparing our similarities and differences. Some sentences were almost identical. The first, for example; the only difference being she had written "wasn't" instead of "was not" - not so surprising, given the terseness of the original Japanese. Other things, however, she did quite differently. Of note, from the second paragraph, she translates present simple Japanese into the past simple English, lending the story telling a more natural tone. Thus, her version runs, "On the round white tabletop reflecting the ceiling light was an ashtray made of glass. A long, thin, lipstick-smeared cigarette smoldered in it..." What compelled, or allowed her to change the tense like this, I can't really say. In my mind, at least, her version works better, even if it does differ grammatically from the original. I have a small hunch, almost a worry, that perhaps Nancy Andrew has understood something about the Japanese text, and hence the Japanese language, that I as yet have not.]


  1. I haven't read Almost Transparent Blue, but I've been meaning to. How would you compare it to "Coin Locker Babies"? CLB is one of my favorite books of all time, but I've also read Ryu Murakami's "Piercing", which was way too disturbing for me to really enjoy (Not that I didn't finish it or could appreciate parts of it; some of the subject matter was just hard to stomach).

    Looking forward to more posts!

  2. Highly recommended. I actually prefer ATB to CLB. I can't speak for everyone of course, but if you like short, bleak literature of the Camus, Sagan, or Salinger ilk, but with lots more sex and drugs, then this is the book for you.

  3. Also, duly noted on the erratic front. R. Murakami has written some real stinkers in my view. 69 and In The Miso Soup I was not impressed with at all. Could just have been the translations though...

  4. Oh yeah I've read 69 too, it was actually the first Ryu Murakami I read. I remember liking it somewhat, but clearly it wasn't super memorable to me either. I totally forgot I read it.