Now Reading: Japanese literature, pulled pork, Tatiana Bilbao, Nashville

‘Now Reading’ is a collection and sharing of online stories and is meant for minimal consumption by the few readers of this blog. Topics include books, food, matters of culture, photography, media and technology … there are no rules. Have a story to add? Share it in the comments.

Haruki Murakami and the issues with translation

My familiarity with and knowledge of Japanese literature, and the creators of such literature, is nonexistent, so I had never heard of Haruki Murakami when I came across this New Yorker piece. Murakami recently published a new novel, and it seems he’s quite the pre-order sensation in Japan. There was an advance print run of about a half-million volumes of Murakami’s latest work, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” a book so anticipated that some readers purchased it and immediately crouched in the corner of a Tokyo bookstore to read.

And because Murakami’s work has reached this level of anticipation and popularity, naturally there’s a demand to make his novels accessible internationally, which has created a fascinating conundrum: In the process of translating Murakami’s work from Japanese to other languages, is something about the work being tarnished or, perhaps worse, totally lost? “When you read Haruki Murakami, you’re reading me, at least 95 percent of the time,” Jay Rubin, one of Murakami’s translators, is quoted in the New Yorker. Says Murakami, in regards to how his novels are received when translated in more than 40 languages: “My books exist in their original Japanese. That’s what’s most important, because that’s how I wrote them.”

For novelists and readers alike, this is an issue that will forever run free from a solution. Commercial demands require works to be translated, and as readers we want that, too – having access to the writing of terrific novelists and journalists across the world is a wonderful thing. But it does create a petite pocket of skepticism in my mind, a feeling of doubt that maybe I’m not understanding what the author meant for me to understand when he wrote a novel in his native language. Is this the tone the author really wrote these words with? Was this the exact image in his/her mind? How much of this story is the art of the author and how much of it is a third-party perception of that art? All of these questions will persist, for me anyway, when reading writing that has been pulled from its original tongue. Maybe the process of translating is so thorough and competent that we get 99 percent of the author’s vision and voice for the work, but we have to assume at least a 1 percent disconnect. That’s clearly disconcerting to Murakami; as a reader, is it disconcerting to you?

PULLED PORK (!!!) and some wine

One of the best parts of springtime and the warming of the weather is we head outside to eat. We light grills and linger in the yard. April-June is my favorite time of year. So, on that note, a couple quick food links:

  • Melissa Clark writes that tasty pulled pork doesn’t need to be a seven-hour process. With a smaller (three pounds) and boneless piece of pork, Melissa reduced her cooking time to a few hours and fed a small dinner party quite easily. There are some tradeoffs in taste with the lighter chunk of meat, primarily the lack of marrow in a boneless piece of meat, but Melissa didn’t seem to be bother by that. She notes that a boneless piece of pork is typically rolled out into a longer slab, thus giving you more surface area for whatever seasoning you prefer.
  • The great Pete Wells reviews Pearl & Ash, the latest trendy wine bar in New York City. Although the obvious star of the establishment is its preeminent wine selection, I’m intrigued by the creativity and peculiarity of the menu, including an Asian spin on octopus (with tempura characteristics, it sounds like, but not overwhelming in its “friedness”) and something called “chicken butter” that apparently reminded Pete a little of bacon. Yeah, I know.

Tatiana Bilbao and Mexican architecture 

I enjoyed this piece by Nicolai Ouroussoff in the New York Times Magazine on Tatiana Bilbao, a Mexican architect whose work is considered to be at the forefront of a “cultural resurgence” in her native country. Bilbao is charismatic and bold in her designs, yet her work carries a deft sensitivity. She seems to have a natural talent for creating a structure that exudes strength yet cares for the natural habitat in which it is built. She plays off the environment – Bilbao created an office building whose stories were staggered, jetting out to create balconies of shade, which helped lower air conditioning costs – and has a deep compassion for the lasting artistry of her profession. You get the sense that when she’s asked to build a home, she’s building her home, only someone else holds the keys. Check out the slideshow at the top of the piece; some of the images are stunning.

The latest in the life of Juliette Barnes

For Nashville fans: Get some Hayden Panettiere in your life, courtesy of Vulture.

Email: Twitter: @TMitrosilis

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