๐น๐‘œ๐“Š๐“ƒ๐’น And All This Comes to an End

And you would walk out with me to the western corner of the

castle,

To the dynastic temple, with water about it clear as blue jade,

With boats floating, and the sound of mouth-organs and drums,

With ripples like dragon-scales, going grass green on the water,

Pleasure lasting, with courtezans, going and coming without

hindrance,

With the willow flakes falling like snow,

And the vermilioned girls getting drunk about sunset,

And the water a hundred feet deep reflecting green eyebrows

โ€”Eyebrows painted green are a fine sight in young moonlight,

Gracefully paintedโ€”

And the girls singing back at each other,

Dancing in transparent brocade,

And the wind lifting the song, and interrupting it,

Tossing it up under the clouds.

And all this comes to an end.

And is not again to be met with.

โ€” from “Exiles Letter” in Ezra Pound’s Cathay

1915

๐น๐‘œ๐“Š๐“ƒ๐’น On Plagiarism

The kernel, the soul โ€” let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances โ€” is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are secondhand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral caliber and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.

โ€” from “The Ecstasy of Influence” by Jonathan Lethem

2007

๐น๐‘œ๐“Š๐“ƒ๐’น A literary version of the Sony Walkman and the Honda Civic

Murakamiโ€™s pronouncements matter because heโ€™s Murakami, โ€œone of the worldโ€™s foremost novelists,โ€ as AFP put it. But if this is why the English language press latched onto Murakamiโ€™s comments while overlooking Levyโ€™s interview, then weโ€™ve arrived at the sad intersection of literary authorship and Oprah-ism, wherein the mediaโ€™s limited attention span necessitates the selection of a single, self-perpetuating fame figure for whom publicly-disseminated thoughtfulness is reserved.

Credit The New Yorker and other well-moneyed American publishing interests. Murakami โ€“ as English readers (including the Swedish Academy) know him โ€“ is their fabrication. Translator Stephen Snyderโ€™s work traces the shaping of Murakamiโ€™s brand by Robert Gottlieb and examines how Gottliebโ€™s successor, Deborah Treisman, has fixated on conjuring “the next Murakami.” To the credulous, this is an effort to keep Japanese literature in The New Yorkerโ€™s tent; to the observant, itโ€™s an attempt to construct an exotic, saleable faรงade for American fictionโ€™s tired idioms (the lack of a viable American Nobel candidate is an exhausted topic). As Snyder has noted, Murakamiโ€™s American investors set out to turn him into a โ€œliterary version of the Sony Walkman and the Honda Civic.โ€

This would be fine if it resulted in the publication of more Japanese literature. But Gottlieb and Treisman havenโ€™t given us Japanese literature. They have given us Treisman and Gottlieb. Their fingerprints are omnipresent in the New Yorker versions. Alterations are not necessarily wrongful; both previous Nobel laureates from Japan were rendered by activist translators (Edward Seidensticker and John Nathan). But Nathan translated Oe with autonomy and was published by the insurgent Barney Rosset. Now comes the age of pander, where authors provide the raw cultural and biographical materials necessary to make the publishing industryโ€™s pet aesthetics marketable. Treisman โ€“ who “made” Yoko Ogawa โ€“ withdrew The New Yorkerโ€™s interest in one of Ogawaโ€™s stories after the author declined to rewrite the ending.

โ€” Dreux Richard in Japan Today

2012

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