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Reading

~Chinese / 中文
《平如美棠》饶平如

~Japanese / 日本語
「女のいない男たち」村上春樹
「職業は武装解除」瀬谷ルミ子

~English
"Notes on Democracy" Arundhati Roy

~Korean / 한국어
《그렇습니까? 기린입니다》박민규
《소나기》 황순원

~Finished / 読了 / 已读
「コンビニ人間」村田沙耶香
"Factory Girls" Lesley Chang
"Your Republic is Calling You" Kim Young-ha
「色彩を持たない多崎つくると彼の巡礼の年」村上春樹
《裸命》陈冠中
"River Town" Peter Hessler
"Oracle Bones" Peter Hessler
"Country Driving" Peter Hessler
「カンガルー日和」村上春樹
「こころ」夏目漱石
「火の鳥9」 手塚治虫
《呐喊》鲁迅
《娃》莫言
《朋友》余华
"Inside the Kingdom" Robert Lacey
《活着》余华
"A Room of One's Own" Virginia Woolf
「羊をめぐる冒険」村上春樹
《阿Q正传》鲁迅
《倾城之恋 》张爱玲
《茉莉香片》张爱玲
《金锁记》张爱玲
「深夜特急」(2)沢木耕太郎
「1973年のピンボール」 村上春樹
"One Foot In Eden" Ron Rash
「双子の星」宮沢賢治

Murakami Haruki’s new book: “The Men Without Women”  

World-renowned Japanese writer Murakami Haruki has a new book out, his first collection of short stories in nine years. The title is「女のいない男たち」or The Men Without Women, and it includes six new stories, all of which were first published in the last six months.

Last month I got my preordered copy of The Men Without Women (Japanese: Onna no inai otoko tachi) at Kinokuniya New York. It’s available for purchase online here for $24.50.

While Murakami’s novels are always published in English within a year or so of their initial publication (the next one, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, will come out this year), his short story collections are not usually published in English. That is, the publishers usually make their own collections, such as in the case of The Elephant Vanishes (17 stories spanning the 1980s, and published 12 years later in Japanese as「象の消滅」). The Chinese publishers seem to do the same thing. The difference is that the Chinese publishers will take a well-known story, make it the title of a collection, and publish it with a bunch of lesser-known stories. The English-language publishers seem to publish fewer, larger collections and simply don’t bother to translate and print the lesser-known stories. Thus, I surmise that this book may never come out in English as The Men Without Women. Fans who don’t read Japanese will have to wait for the next short story collection.

As for the title, I translate it as The Men Without Women rather than Men Without Women (or Men Whose Women Are Gone, etc.) because otoko tachi (rather than simply otoko) seems to refer to specific men. Indeed, in each of these six stories, the protagonist is a man without a woman. However, it is probably not a coincidence that Ernest Hemingway published a collection of ten short stories about men in 1927, called Men Without Women, and the name of that book in Japanese translation is—you guessed it—Onna no inai otoko tachi. It was translated by Ayukawa Nobuo in 1982, just when Murakami was beginning his writing career.

The Japanese Wikipedia page includes some trivia about the new book. Apparently, it is usual that it does not include a preface. The two stories “Drive My Car” and “Yesterday” were supposedly altered somehow before publication in the book, and “Drive My Car” has already been translated and published in Korean by Yang Eog-gwan (梁億寬).

Edit: The story “Sheherazade” was published in the Oct. 13 issue of The New Yorker and translated by Ted Gossen, a professor at York University in Toronto.

Below are the front and back covers of the book, with English translations of the story titles, descriptions, and dates/places of publication. All translations are mine, and thus later publications may make different choices.

 

Front cover

Onna no inai otoko tachi - Murakami Haruki (Copyright 2014)

Onna no inai otoko tachi – Murakami Haruki (Copyright 2014)

 

「女のいない男たち」

The Men Without Women

First issue April 20th, 2014

 

Murakami Haruki,

[His] short story world for the first time in nine years.

That story is

Deeper, sharper,

And exceeds expectations.

 

Bungei Shunju publication / Fixed price (JPY 1574 + tax)

 

Back cover

Onna no inai otoko tachi (Back cover) - Murakami Haruki (Copyright 2014)

Onna no inai otoko tachi (Back cover) – Murakami Haruki (Copyright 2014)

 

Six stories that intertwine and echo.

 

“Drive My Car”

Bungei Shunju Dec. 2013

Stage actor Kafuku hires Misaki, a female driver. Why did his deceased wife have to have a relationship with that man? Little by little, he began to tell Misaki.

 

“Yesterday”

Bungei Shunju Jan. 2014

What is the strange “cultural exchange” proposed by his classmate Kitaru, from Den-en-chōfu but who can speak perfect Kansai dialect? And then, 16 years passed.

 

“Independent Organ”

Bungei Shunju Mar. 2014

What did his friend, the confirmed bachelor Dr. Tokai, obtain for the first time by sacrificing his life?

 

“Scheherazade”

MONKEY Vol. 2 Spring 2014

Shut up in the “house” that is a lonely island on land, Habara is toyed with by the story that even the world finds captivating, told by the “contact person” woman after the affair.

 

“Kino”

Bungei Shunju Feb. 2014

Betrayed by his wife, Kino quit his job and opened a bar. Then at certain times, a strange presence would envelop the place.

 

“The Men Without Women”

First published here

One night after midnight, a phone call from his former lover’s husband came to deliver sad news.

Onna no inai otoko tachi - Murakami Haruki (Copyright 2014)

Onna no inai otoko tachi – Murakami Haruki (Copyright 2014)


13 Comments

  1. […] Murakami Haruki’s new book: “The Men Without Women”   […]

  2. […] steadily releasing short fiction in The New Yorker in a slow burn lead up to his newest collection, Men Without Women (published in Japan in 2014). The role that sexual energy plays in these tales is invariably linked […]

  3. James Devereux says:

    Hello Keiran,

    First of all, thank you for stopping by my blog
    ‘Korean [as it is]’ and leaving a comment. As you rightly predicted, I
    haven’t posted in a long time. I have been living in Japan for the last
    two years and learning Japanese. I am looking at kick-starting the whole
    thing though and comments like yours encourage me all the more – so
    thank you 🙂

    Your commitment to language learning is very
    impressive. I have been studying Japanese for the last two years or so
    but do not think I’m at the level where I could manage this book that
    you write about. I wonder how you manage to read it – aren’t there
    occasionally Kanji that you are not able to read or words that you do
    not know? I am studying for JLPT N2 at the moment and I am familiar with
    all the main grammar and plenty of vocab but probably not enough to
    make the reading experience smooth enough to be enjoyable. I wonder if
    you use a Kindle or other e-book device to get over the problem of new
    kanji and words appearing that you can’t read.

    I’d be interested
    to hear how you do it. Thanks again for stopping by. If there’s
    anything you’d like me to write about in Korea or Japan then please let
    me know and I’ll see if I can. I’m trying to think of some topics that
    would have mass appeal to cover next. Your ideas are very welcome!

    • Hi James,

      I apologize for my very late reply.

      As it’s been a while; how is your Japanese coming along now? Must be going well? 🙂

      I think your question deserves at least a whole post, but I’ll give a quick answer now:

      Aren’t there occasionally Kanji that you are not able to read or words that you do
      not know?

      Yes, lots of them. I think of these as two overlapping categories. There are (a) kanji that I don’t know how to read in a certain context, and (b) words I don’t know the meaning of. (I might add (c), kanji I’ve never seen before, but those are rare (usually names) and can be lumped into (a).)

      The approach to both is the same: context. If I can’t figure out a word through context, I might look it up in a dictionary. (I rarely look up words with print books, but always do that on the computer.) I usually just keep reading.

      The main difference between (a) & (b) is that I know how to pronounce (b), so I can keep it in my mind as an unknown word. For (a), I usually guess at a pronunciation, or use Chinese as a last resort (often for names).

      For example, I recently encountered 底辺 in the sentence: “この店ってほんとに底辺のやつらばっかですよね” (‘You know, this store is truly full of only the lowest kind of people.’). It falls into category (b) because these are common kanji, but the reading is not obvious to a non-native speaker. I thought, “Must be ‘sokobe’, or maybe ‘teihen’.” (It’s テイヘン.) So I was wrong, but regardless I intuited the meaning correctly, and later looked it up.

      I do read on a Kindle, but it doesn’t have a Japanese dictionary function (afaik).

      All that said, it’s probably not very helpful to you, because I’ve been studying Japanese for so long that there aren’t many truly essential words that I don’t know & couldn’t figure out through context.

      I think your key question is this:

      How do you “make the reading experience smooth enough to be enjoyable”?
      Basically, through patient practice. I’m planning a whole serious of posts about this issue, because it’s near and dear to my heart. This is the question I wrestled with in Japan in 2010 when I tried to read「人のセックスを笑うな」(debut novel by Yamazaki Nao-cola (山崎ナオコーラ) that won the 2004 Bungei Prize).

      – I remember finding 剛毛 (gōmō, ‘bristles’) on the first page, looking it up, and memorizing the whole sentence to learn the word. In six years, I haven’t encountered that word since.
      – Eventually, I settled on a happy medium — look up only the most essential seeming words, i.e. words closest to daily life, or those I absolutely couldn’t understand through context
      – After a week or so I finished the novel (160 pages) & could relate the basic plot — success!

      I could (and probably will) write lots more about working through various books to learn languages.

      But basically, I don’t expect to understand everything the first time. If I read a Korean book, I’m happy with 20-30% (and 80%+ with an accompanying translation).

      Please do ask me questions about these things — I’m getting so far removed from my earliest kanji studies now that I’m forgetting exactly how much & what kind of work went into it.

      Regards,
      Kieran

  4. […] released a new collection of short stories in Japan, roughly translated as Men Without Women. If past trends hold, this volume may never see the light of day in the States. But we may get to read all of the […]

  5. […] released a new collection of short stories in Japan, roughly translated as Men Without Women. If past trends hold, this volume may never see the light of day in the States. But we may get to read all of the […]

  6. […] released a new collection of short stories in Japan, roughly translated as Men Without Women. If past trends hold, this volume may never see the light of day in the States. But we may get to read all of […]

  7. Nadia Ho says:

    Hi thanks for the article, just The Elephant Vanishes should be “象”の消滅

    • Kieran says:

      Thanks for reading and pointing that out that typo!

      By the way, as you probably know, the story “Sheherazade” was just published in The New Yorker.

  8. Ti Reed says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog to share this cover with me!

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Kieran Maynard

Kieran Maynard

Writer, translator, researcher, traveler specializing in Japanese and Chinese literature.

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