Philip Gabriel biography

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Philip Gabriel

Philip Gabriel

Philip Gabriel Biography

Philip Gabriel is one of the major translators into English of the works of Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami and of works by Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe. He's also the author of Mad Wives and Island Dreams: Shimao Toshio and Margins of Japanese Literature. He is a professor of modern Japanese literature and former head of East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Philip Gabriel's website

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Interview

Philip Gabriel talks about his work as translator of Japanese literature including the works of Haruki Murakami and Hiro Arikawa's novel The Travelling Cat Chronicles.

As an undergrad you majored in Chinese but some Japanese novels motivated you to read them in their original form. What about those books enticed you to learn this language?

At the time, the Chinese books we were reading were all influenced by the ongoing Cultural Revolution and thus pretty boring. I wanted to read more typical fiction, but about East Asia, and the Japanese fiction I read in translation then excited me by its variety. I read Soseki, Kawabata, Tanizaki, Mishima, Oe, Abe, and found them all so different from each other, but also quite different from Western writers.

And what took you from reading the Japanese to translating books to English?

When I was living in Japan and working on my Japanese, I was part of a small reading circle of Japanese and U.S. academics in Nagasaki, where I lived. Just a handful of people who met regularly to read translations of modern Japanese literature and compare it with the original text, often line by line. The discussions we had were so stimulating that I started to think I could try my hand at translating.

What goes into your work process as you translate?

Blood, sweat and tears, as Churchill put it. You can read something in a foreign language and think you have it ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Philip Gabriel at BookBrowse
The Travelling Cat Chronicles jacket
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