I have nearly finished Haruki Murakami’s slim memoir, What I talk about when I talk about running, but thought this little tidbit deserved its own post. As well as writing his works in Japanese which others translate for him, he also translates English language works into Japanese. Interesting eh? Anyhow, while he was writing this memoir, he was also translating F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. This is what he says:
…Gatsby really is an outstanding novel. I never get tired of it, no matter how many times I read it. It’s the kind of literature that nourishes you as you read, and every time I do I’m struck by something new, and experience a fresh reaction to it. I find it amazing how such a young writer, only twenty-nine at the time, could grasp – so insightfully, so equitably, and so warmly – the realities of life. How is this possible? The more I think about it, and the more I read the novel, the more mysterious it all is.
Well, that’s it. I really do have to read The Great Gatsby again. I felt it when I read Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, I feel it when I see it appear in those top 10 (100, or whatever) lists, and I feel it again now. Murakami, with lovely modesty, has pinpointed that thing which defines great literature – the ability to read a work again and again and find “something new”, or “experience a fresh reaction”. That’s what I get from writers like Jane Austen. It’s not what I get from, say, Toni Jordan (as enjoyable as her novel Addition was).
Gatsby, here I come – sometime soon I hope!