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Curious about Jay Rubin the translator 2009/12/3 08:06

I'm reading the Jay Rubin's English translation version of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood and became curious about the translator. The internet tells me that he is American, but why does he use British expressions like ''lift'' (to mean ''elevator'') or ''centre'' (as opposed to ''center'')? I'm also curious about other little things about this great translation. Could anyone recommend me a good forum to ask these questions? Or do you think I can just ask them here? I don't really want to go through the trouble of reading big books on Rubin just to find the answer to my silly questions. Thank you in advance.
by Uco (guest)  

British publisher? 2009/12/3 14:32
Uco san,

Who is the version you are reading published by? Often books in English are published in two versions, an American English one and a British English one, for the different markets. (Think of the first Harry Potter book, which was even given a different title in the American version).

If the publisher is British, then you have your answer- it was probably originally translated into American English but has been edited by a British publisher for the British market.
by Sira (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2009/12/3 15:46
I don't know the answer but Sira san's sounds the most likely.
I love British writers and sometimes buy their books printed in the US (by mistake), all the GB spellings are changed into US ones like colour to color.
by magonote rate this post as useful

... 2009/12/3 16:46
It could also be that the translator decided that the British tone better fits the setting/atmosphere of the story than American tone, and decided to use British tone, spelling, expressions. Just a guess, but sometimes the story/contents dictate the language.
by AK rate this post as useful

Thanks 2009/12/3 17:27
Whoops, Sira you're absolutely right. The book I borrowed from the library is published by a British publisher called Vintage, so they must have edited some of the words to suit the majority of their readers. Interestingly, among the many other publishers that this book has listed, none are American, even though the American translator claims that Haruki uses "American-flavoured (with a "u") narratives."

Stanfordgal, I know I can contact Mr. Rubin, but I simply felt like chatting about the book with other fans. I shall ask for the professor's time when I have better questions to write, but thanks anyway.

So has anyone read this official English version of Norwegian Wood by Rubin? Naturally, readers of the Japanese version would link the forrest scene to the original title Norway No Mori, but I wonder what kind of an impression you had when you read it under the title Norwegian Wood. I felt that somehow this legendary misinterpretation of the Beatles' song does not leave a big gap between the original novel and the English version.

Or maybe I should start posting on one of the "book recommendation" threads on this forum.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

Thanks 2009/12/3 17:51
AK, your post came in as I was posting mine. Yes, I suppose that's possible. Thanks.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Jay Rubin 2009/12/5 17:56
Japanese book stores do seem to mix UK and US versions of books, I noticed before.

As for Jay Rubin, he wrote this delightful book 'Making Sense of Japanese - What the textbooks don't tell you.' that solved many puzzles about Japan and the Japanese language for me. I guess it would even be amusing to native Japanese speakers. Who can say no to chapters like: Go jump in the lake, but be sure to come back. allows you to browse the first few pages here:
by Hoshisato rate this post as useful

board for novel 2009/12/5 19:01
Thank you, Hoshisato-san. I knew of the book.

Actually, I suppose I should've written my question as follows;

If you want to discuss about a certain movie, you can go to the Message Boards of Internet Movie Data Base. Here is an example.

My question is, is there something like this that works for novels and not movies? I know there is a discussion forum on, but the threads seem totally unrelated to the novel on the page.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

not sure but 2009/12/5 21:11
You could try or perhaps there is a translation/translators forum out there.

by Tilt (guest) rate this post as useful

Thanks 2009/12/6 13:45
Thanks Tilt. Booktalk seems worth exploring. I'll also try posting on a translator's mailing list on Google that I belong to. Thanks again.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

great 2009/12/6 21:26
Happy to have helped a little, Uco. Let me know what you think of booktalk after you have checked it out, if possible.
by Tilt (guest) rate this post as useful

Direct 2010/1/7 14:24
Did it occur to you to actually reach out to Jay himself?

I have found this to be true of may people in our field but, it you present a direct question on an academic subject, the professors will take the time to answer when they can.

Japanese language and literature is a small specialty by comparison and you might be surprised how open and helpful some of the leading scholars can be.
by kyototrans rate this post as useful

. 2010/1/7 15:48

Thank you Kyototrans, but please refer to my second post dated Dec.3. Contacting the translator was not what I intended to do, and my initial question has been answered anyway. I am more curious about what other readers thought about the book rather than the translator's intention.

I also posted a question on the website that Tilt was nice enough to recommend, but so far I haven't received any replies. But it's okay.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

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