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Lin Shaohua: the solitude in Haruki Murakami's oeuvre

Peking University, Apr. 28, 2014: Many Chinese youth gain inspiration and encouragement from works of the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. If we say his popularity in China is unignorable, then we must mention the name of a Chinese translator – Lin Shaohua, who is acting as a bridge between Haruki Murakami and his Chinese audience.

Mr. Lin has translated the best works of Haruki Murakami into Chinese. On Apr. 25th, he was invited to give a speech at Peking University, the topic of which was the solitude in Haruki Murakami’s oeuvre.

Lin's solitude: reading book is an activity of the deepest loneliness

"Aristotle once said that whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god. I am neither a wild beast nor a god. But I am delighted in solitude," Professor started his speech with his opinion on solitude.

Then, he introduced his life experience, "I think solitude comes from genes. In my memory, my grandfather and my father were used to solitude. When I was young, I also used to play alone. As a result, only one activity was left, that is, reading books. There is no need to cooperate with others when you are engaged in reading."

As a teacher of Ocean University of China, Professor Lin also commented on his profession, "Being a professor in college can be the loneliest job. Your whole life may just consist of reading, preparing lessons and giving lectures." At that moment, a light of satisfaction appeared on his face.

Murakami's solitude: loneliness is a common life experience
It has been more than 30 years since Haruki Murakami’s debut. He was concerned with the wandering and estrangement of those who were marginalized in cities and engaged in "describing the loneliness of metropolitan people".

According to Professor Lin, Murakami’s writing career could be divided into two phases and the turning point happened in the mid 1990s. During the early phase, he intended to portray the image of metropolis with a series of selected details in a poetic way. He also explored the absurdity of life and the alienation among ordinary people.

This can be named as the phase of "petty-bourgeois". His representative works of this period include "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World", "Norwegian Wood" and "Dance Dance Dance".

The latter 20 years of his work tied with the criticism about the state system. Murakami once said, "Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg." The wall, according to the writer, stood for state system, while the egg was a token of individuals.

His works explored the topic of what every single individual could do when facing "the wall". "Kafka on the Shore", "After Dark" and "1Q84" represented his thinking in this field.

"Although characters in Murakami’s novels are just marginalized ordinary figures from everyday life, they all possess an independent view on life. They judge things with separate but solid criteria, perceive things with unique emotions."

"With a kind of self-respect and nobility, Murakami’s characters don’t bend others to their wills. They live in solitude," Lin noted.

After discussing the life in solitude, Professor Lin also mentioned how to transcend solitude, "It may cause some negative impacts, which we must avoid. People need to transfer individual solitude into the action of changing society into a better place."

Then professor shared Romain Rolland’s words with us, "There is only one heroism in this world, it’s to see the world as it is, and to love it."

In the end, Professor Lin discussed his unique translation experience. "Translation is a process of approaching the author’s original intention but one can never be 100 percent sure." When being asked if his personal feelings would come into play during his translation process, Professor Lin responded, "I never added my own feelings into a translation purposely."

Lin Shaohua [Photo Source: Culture.ifeng]

Reported by: Meng Yiran
Edited by: Li Wenrui