Proper Treatment 正當作法/ blog/ posts/ Haruki Birnbaum can be more verbose than Murakami 明珠
標籤 Tags:
2008-10-22 22:09

Actually, not all of Alfred Birnbaum’s translation of Haruki Murakami’s novel Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is abridged compared to 賴明珠’s Mandarin Chinese translation in Taiwan of the book with the opposite title.


In some places, the opposite is the case, and I enjoy the English version more. Because the following comparison is a bit long, let me intersperse the two versions.

Stepping out from behind a pillar, we mounted the ladder at the end of the platform, nonchalant and disinterested, as if we did this sort of thing every day.We stepped around the railing. Several people looked our way, visibly alarmed. We were covered with mud, clothes drenched, hair matted, eyes squinting at the ordinary light—I guess we didn’t look like subway employees. Who the hell were we?


Before they’d reached any conclusions, we’d sauntered past and were already at the wicket. That’s when it occurred to me, we didn’t have tickets.



“We’ll say we lost them and pay the fare,” she said.


So that’s what I told the young attendant at the gate.


“Did you look carefully?” he asked. “You have lots of pockets. Could you please check again?”


We stood there dripping and filthy and searched our clothes for tickets that had never been there, while the attendant eyed us incredulously.


No, it seemed we’d really lost them, I said.


“Where did you get on?”




“How much did you pay?”


“A hundred twenty, hundred forty yen, something like that.”


“You don’t remember?”


“I was thinking about other things.”


“Honestly, you got on at Shibuya?”


“The line starts from Shibuya, doesn’t it? How could we cheat on the fare?”


“You could have come through the underpass from the opposite platform. The Ginza Line’s pretty long. For all I know, you could have caught the Tozai Line all the way from Tsudanuma and transferred at Nihonbashi.”




“Strictly hypothetical,” said the station attendant.


“So how much is it from Tsudanuma? I’ll pay that. Will that make you happy?”


“Did you come from Tsudanuma?”


“No,” I said. “Never been to Tsudanuma in my life.”


“Then why pay the fare?”


“I’m just doing what you said.”


“I said that was strictly hypothetical.”


By now, the next train had arrived. Twelve passengers got off and passed through the wicket. We watched them. Not one of them had lost a ticket. Whereupon we resumed negotiations with the attendant.

“Okay, tell me from where do I have to pay?” I said.

“From where you got on,” he insisted.

“Shibuya, like I’ve been trying to tell you.”

“But you don’t remember the fare.”

“Who remembers fares? Do you remember how much coffee costs at McDonald’s?”

“I don’t drink McDonald’s coffee,” said the station attendant. “It’s a waste of money.”

“Purely hypothetical,” I said. “But you forget details like that.”

“That may be, but people who say they’ve lost tickets always plead cheaper fares. They all come over to this platform and say they got on in Shibuya.”

“I already said I’d pay whatever fare you want, didn’t I? Just tell me how much.”

“How should I know?”

I threw down a thousand-yen bill and we marched out. The attendant yelled at us, but we pretended not to hear.


The use of 什麼 in the retort 從來沒到過什麼津田沼 is inspired indeed, but 關係者 and 到達他們的結論 are not part of Mandarin the last time I checked. Moreover, the part about McDonald’s coffee is a even more brilliant retort—completely missing in the Mandarin—and what is a Murakami novel without counting how many passengers got off the next train?

Then again, I would call the wickets turnstiles in English even though I know they don’t turn. It’s true, 沒完沒了的爭論繼續下去太麻煩了. I’m like the blind man’s two arms arguing with each other about the elephant.

My interpretation of this book’s ending is that the tide turns and everyone lives happily ever after like they always do in Hollywood. The separation represents that the two ‘I’s only brush past each other, like the trains in Café Lumière. Does anyone agree?