Monday, August 16, 2010

Donuts Make Me Go Nuts

Because A) I have a feeling no one cares about my thoughts on The Great Gatsby and therefore I don't have the energy to write anything about it, and B) I've been dying to put a translation up here for a long time but the one I'm working on is kind of a beast, I present to you some new (and old) Haruki Murakami translations.

In Yoru No Kumozaru, Murakami's nifty little flash fiction collection, Murakami has two stories based (sort of) around donuts. The first story about donuts (sort of) is one that I translated and put up many moons ago, back in the good ol' days of the now thoroughly defunct Kumozaru Project. I went on vacation with my family this past weekend, and what better way to relax than a nice, quick little translation work for fun. Besides the relationship between the word "donut," I like the little call back to Sophia University. And without further introduction...:

"Suburbanization (The Doughnut Effect)"

I'd been dating my fiance for three years, but it was when she suburbanized that our relationship went sour ---- how the hell can anyone get along with a lover who leaves the city for the suburbs? ----  and I was getting wasted in bars almost every night, washed out and losing weight like Humphrey Bogart in
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

"Brother, I'm begging you, you've got to get over her. As it stands now, your body is broken," my little sister urged me. "I know how you're feeling, but those who suburbanize can't be un-suburbanized. You've got to end it! Don't you think so?"

Of course she was right. It was like my sister said, once you've gone suburban, you're suburban for eternity.

I called my fiance to tell her goodbye. "It's heartbreaking to be separated from you, but in the end, it's only fate that this is happening, right? I'll never forget you, not for one second in my whole life..........and so on."

"You still don't get it, do you?" my suburbanized lover said. "At the center of human existence is naught. Nothing, zero. Why aren't you trying to focus on this vacuum? Why do your eyes only go to the parts around it?"

Why? That's what I wanted to ask her. Why suburbanites can only have such a narrow-minded worldview.

But at any rate, that's how I broke up with my fiance. That was two years ago now. Then, last spring, without any warning, my sister suburbanized. Immediately after she left Sophia University and started working at Japan Airlines,  in a hotel lobby in Sapporo after a business trip, she suddenly just up and suburbanized. My mom locked herself in her home and spent day after day in tears and sorrow.

Every now and then I try to call my sister and ask, "How are ya'?"

"You still don't get it, do you?" my suburbanized sister says. "At the center of human existence...."


Donuts, Once Again

It was because of an event called the Sophia University Seminar for the Study of Doughnuts - boy, college students these days sure come up with all sorts of things - that I got a call asking whether I'd like to participate in a symposium to discuss the current state of doughnuts. Sounds good, I replied. I too have a personal opinion regarding doughnuts. Knowledge, opinion, a sense of appreciation - no matter how you slice it, it will be a long time before I lose to these strange college kids.

The Sophia University Seminar for the Study of Doughnuts, Fall Event was held in a rented hall at the Hotel New Otani. There was a band and a doughnut matching game, and after a dinner mixed with snacks, the symposium was held in a neighboring room. Besides myself, famous cultural anthropologists and food critics, among others, were in attendance.

"Doughnuts are a part of contemporary literature, and if we decide we can have the power, that is, the indispensable factor to commit directly a certain kind of coming together individually to identify the areas of our subconsciousness... " I recited. My compensation was 50,000 yen.

I thrust the 50,000 yen into my pocket, headed to the bar, and drank vodka tonics with a girl from the French Literature department who I met at the doughnut matching game.

"In the end, for better or worse, your novels are kinda doughnut-y. I bet Flaubert didn't even think of something like a doughnut even once."

That's right, Flaubert probably did not think about doughnuts. But it's the 20th century now, and pretty soon it's going to be the 21st. You don't just bring up Flaubert in this day and age.

"The doughnut, c'est moi," I said, mimicking Flaubert.

"You're an interesting person, aren't you," she said, giggling. I'm not trying to brag here but, making girls from the French Lit department laugh is kind of my specialty.


  1. I've once read another short story by Murakami, in which the protagonist's girl friend literally turns into doughnut.
    May be this is one of obsessesive icons the writer uses, like wells and elephants.

  2. lol. Love that last story. Nice translation.