Phraseology

October 9th 2017

Today I’m tempted to stay up until midnight to finish reading my book. I know, I know… my life is wild. It’s just a really good book. I’m reading Haruki Murakami’s Norweigan Wood. Recently I’m obsessed with reading foreign literature that has been translated into English. The last three books that I’ve read are books which weren’t originally written in English.

I don’t know what it is, but there’s some quirk of translation that results in the writing having a higher level of profundity.

There was probably an easier way of writing that last sentence but 1) I wanted to exhibit more complex ways of structuring a sentence, and 2) I just really wanted to use the word ‘profundity’.

With Murakami, and with Norwegian Wood particularly, it almost seems to be intentional. The characters make reference to the unique way in which the protagonist (and narrator) speaks, and they liken him to Catcher in the Rye‘s Holden Caulfied. Perhaps that’s why I’m enjoying this book so much; because, although I know that this is a polarising opinion, I really liked Catcher in the Rye.

In Norwegian Wood, I can forgive the sometimes imperfect and inefficient phraseology because it’s intentional and part of the charm. There would certainly be much more regular ways of writing some of the phrases, but they wouldn’t sound half as good. And that’s either fantastic writing or the trick of translation.

The last book I read was The hundred-year-old man who jumped out of the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (a fantastically fantastical title and a fantastically Swedish name.) That book was written in Swedish, naturally, and translated into English. Again, it led to this beautiful and elegant and completely inefficient phraseology.

There’s just something about a translated novel that really appeals to me at the moment. Maybe it’s because the writing style is different, so it’s more interesting to read. Maybe it’s the hints of different culture that are satisfying my embering (not a word) wanderlust.

Until tomorrow, it’s possible I’m just being completely pretentious.

Jacn

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