Today in International Lit: Early Murakami, Idlewild Books, and late Guy de Maupassant

By David Varno

Murakami Bootlegs No More

Haruki Murakami's major works have long been available in the United States, but the author has refused too allow distribution of his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973, both of which are narrative precursors to A Wild Sheep Chase, well-known to readers in English. According to CNN Go,translations for the first two were released by the Japanese publisher Kodansha as English study aids. They went out of print in the late '90s, and Ebay prices have skyrocketed enough over the intervening decade for Kodansha to unleash the editions on Amazon Japan. Here's the pitch from CNN Go, which affords the books more value than Murakami did: [Pinball '73] is important within the Murakami oeuvre in that it sets up the distance between the protagonist and 'the Rat,' which is key to understanding A Wild Sheep Chase. Also, the novel's structure of two-separate-stories-in-one-narrative is repeated later in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

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Clear Skies at Idlewild, Purveyor of International Lit

Keep any eye out for reports from New York City's Idlewild Books buyer Lewis Manalo in Publishing Perspectives in the coming months. Idlewild's well-stocked shop in the Flatiron District specializes in books from around the world, which are shelved according to country of origin. Yesterday, Manalo published a report on customer frustration over not finding the books they are looking for. The case he makes for readers' desire for foreign literature goes against the American publishing world's conventional wisdom: "Last year, Steig Larsson may have been the only author in translation to break into the top ten of The New York Times Besteller List; but as long as American publishers have been shilling world fiction, American readers have been snatching it up." Manalo might rely on the U.S. market's habit of tokenizing---"like the moviegoers addicted to French films, there are readers who need their regular fix of French mystery novels or Latin American magical realism or Japanese horror fiction"---but, as Scott Esposito responded today on Conversational Reading, there is "evidence against the claim that 'culturally insular' Americans don’t want to read beyond their borders."

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The Psychology of Maupassant

Lorin Stein's well-rounded essay on the work of Guy de Maupassant, for the February Harper's, takes a look at the rare moments of psychological reveals evident in Maupassant's later work. The last novel, Notre cuoeur, which has been out of print for nearly a century, is now available in a translation by Richard Howard, as Alien Hearts (NYRB).


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