La dependienta/ Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (Japanese Literature Challenge 16)

La dependienta/ Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata,
163 pages, Paperback
First published July 27, 2016

I made it! I read one book for the Japanese Literature Challenge 16, hosted by Dolce Bellezza. It’s my plan to read at least one more book, let’s not jinx myself.

This book came to me by accident. Spring Snow was one of my strong candidates, but after some research, I decided I prefer to read Japanese books in Spanish translations. Not exclusively, but as much as possible. I try to do that also for books non written in English, granted that there’s accessibility to them in Spanish. However, I couldn’t say I have a clear rule or procedure.

I remember that in the case of The Makioka Sisters, -a favorite of mine-, when I read it, I didn’t even think about getting it in a Spanish translation. My English translation by Edward Seidensticker felt perfect. He died in 2007. I posted a review of it in May 2016, and, unbeknownst to me, April 6, 2016, a translator by the name of Miguel Menendez Cuspinera, rendered it in Spanish.

It’s possible that the Spanish translation is made from English. One never knows, it doesn’t say.

Spring Snow appears to be poetic, rich in character building and setting, rich in language. Even though I’m proficient in English, Spanish is my poetic knowledge language. Poetic knowledge as in James Taylor groundbreaking book, Poetic Knowledge, -right? Quoting:

JAMES TAYLOR describes his work as nothing new or revolutionary, but rather an effort of “philosophical archeology,” an “attempt to resuscitate a nearly forgotten mode of knowledge.” This “poetic knowledge” (so-called by St. Thomas Aquinas) has little to do with our modern connotations of either word. Rather, it is a mode of being which hearkens back to classical and medieval times, a “spontaneous act of the external and internal senses with the intellect, integrated and whole, rather than an act associated with the powers of analytic reasoning.” A knowledge from the inside out, rather than a mere knowing about. From this sort of organic understanding, explains Taylor, the objects and art of a culture naturally emerge – a celebration of the ordinary as wonderful.

Poetic Knowledge, the Recovery of Education

It is as having a 6th sense in Spanish that I don’t have in English.

All this to say I read this title in Spanish. I don’t want to say a lot about it other than I find it a gem. There’s some similarities to Ishiguro, the book is told from the main character’s POV, which allows us to figure out the two perceptions of reality. We are never told a clear accepted reason for the difference in the main character, but as in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, there’s a critique to the cruel “norm”, a questioning the sanity of the “average” citizen. Also the astute observation of how two people who share the outcast label can be very different from each other.

It was a worthy and unexpected read.

12 thoughts on “La dependienta/ Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (Japanese Literature Challenge 16)

  1. I always admire those who can read in multiple languages. Read Japanese books in Spanish translations sounds so interesting. For Bellezza’s JLC16, I just finished reading Keigo Higashino’s recent novel published in Japan in 2021. I read it in Chinese translation, which was published in Taiwan (therefore in Traditional Chinese, which is my heritage language) in 2022. The experience feels so intimate. As for The Makioka Sisters, I’d watched the movie adaptation and it’s good.

  2. Wow, great ides of reading Japanese lit in Spanish! Though for now I personally think I want to stick to books originally written in Spanish. I’m working on my Japanese, but I” probably only be able to read picture books!

  3. I mean emotional in a positive way, as in choosing translations that add many nuances to us, that are rich and that add levels of connection with the text based on our connection with the translated language.

  4. This is a very interesting topic. Complicated decision for sure. I see your partner making it emotional and like me in a way, matching a romance language to another romance one. I have My Brilliant Friend in English because I found it in that translation since I live in Texas. But a Spanish translation could be better. On the other hand, a quality English translation can be perfect, specially since this book doesn’t have complicated language. But then will Spanish or French be closer to the expressions and idioms?

    In any case I am a fan of translation. More than the limitations I focus on the benefits and the joy of having as many as possible. Especially of classics.

  5. I’ve almost finished a Tim Parks book about reading, which discusses various aspects of translation, but I don’t think he raises that interesting point for those who have an option, of which language to read a translation in. My partner quite often matches types of language: he read My Brilliant Friend in French rather than in Italian for that reason. But I believe one may miss something in following such linguistic reasoning. I think it could be quite a complicated decision.

  6. Me alegra que te animes. Se lee rápido y es generoso, espero que como yo, te sientas satisfecha de haberlo escogido. Los escritores japoneses con una buena traducción a nuestra lengua emocional aportan mucho y algo especial y diferente.

  7. Le tenía ganas a este libro y ahora, con tu comentario, tendré que leerlo. Sobre todo por eso de que te recuerda a Ishiguro.
    Es curioso eso de leer traducciones en uno u otro idioma. No sé por qué, lo que he leído de Murakami ha sido siempre en sus traducciones al catalán. No lo había analizado mucho, creía que era porque el primer libro suyo que leí fue en ese idioma. Pero quizás haya algo más, como tú dices. ¡Un saludo!

  8. I read this a few years ago – loved it. Although she had some disturbing tendencies (the scene with her baby nephew in particular has stayed with me all this time), I was left feeling and hoping that everyone would just leave her alone and let her do her job at the convenience store.

  9. What a coincidence! I just picked this up at the library (she was right next to Murakami on the shelf). I am so glad to hear you liked it! Of course, anything with a passing resemblance to Ishiguro or Kafka piques my interest. 🙂

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