Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Here it is, ladies and germs, the very first short story I have ever translated into English from Japanese. There is at least one more translation of this story floating around the net but mine is better.

Bear in mind, I haven't "made this pretty" or whatnot yet, it's kind of a bare-bones translation. Anyway, the story is "Zombie" ("Zombies?") by Murakami Haruki. There is some vulgarity, there is some violence, there is a good deal of plain meanness. It is not for the faint of heart. And so, with no further ado,

A man and a woman were walking down the road. It was a road next to a graveyard. It was the middle of the night. There was even mist out. It wasn’t that the two of them wanted to be walking in a place like that in the middle of the night. Through a variety of circumstances, they found themselves unable to avoid it. The two of them were holding hands tightly and walking quickly.
“It’s just like we’re in a Michael Jackson video,” she said.
“Yeah, the gravestones are gonna start moving,” he replied.
Just then, they heard the creaking sound of something heavy moving nearby. The two of them stopped walking and instinctively looked at each other.
The man laughed.
“No problem, it’s nothing to get nervous about. Just some tree branches rubbing against each other – the wind or something…”
But “the wind or something” wasn’t blowing. The woman took a deep breath and examined their surroundings. She had a bad feeling. It was like something terrible was about to happen.
But she couldn’t see anything. There was no indication that the dead had been resurrected. The two started to walk again.
The man’s face became strangely stiff.
“Why are you walking in such an odd way?” he asked her suddenly.
“Me?” she replied, surprised. “I’m walking oddly?”
“It’s so vulgar!” he said.
“You’re bow-legged!”
She bit her lip. It was true that she might have such a tendency. The soles of her shoes wore down unevenly - but not so much that it was fair to say she was doing it on purpose, that was harsh!
But she didn’t say anything. She was in love with him, and moreover he was in love with her. They were to get married next month. She didn’t want to get into a petty fight. That was fair enough, right?
“You’re the first bow-legged woman I ever dated.”
“Oh?” she laughed, stiffly, looking sad. Was he drunk? No, she didn’t think he’d had any alcohol all day.
“And on top of that, you have three moles in your ear hole!” he continued.
“Are you looking for an argument?” she asked. “Which ear?”
“The right. Just inside the hole in your right ear. They’re ugly.”
“You don’t like moles?”
“I don’t like ugly moles. Someone who likes that sort of thing, ha, where are you gonna find someone like that?”
She bit her lips much, much harder.
“What’s more, sometimes, your body odor really smells!” he continued. “It kind of bothered me from the beginning. If it had been summer when we met, we wouldn’t be together right now.”
She sighed. Then she let go of his hand, which she had been gripping tightly.
“Hey!” she said. “That’s not like you. You’re never that harsh. Up until just now…”
“And your blouse collar is dirty! The one you’re wearing today. Why are you such a slob? Why can’t you do a single thing right?”
She was silent. She was so angry she couldn’t move her mouth.
“Is this okay? I have a mountain of things I want to tell you – you’re bow-legged, you smell bad, you’ve got a smudge on your collar, you have moles in your ears, these are just the main part of what I want to say. Why are you wearing those earrings? They don’t suit you, you look like a hooker… Actually, no – hookers usually have nicer things. You should wear them in your nose, it would go well with your double chin. Oooh and speaking of double chins, I just remembered! Your mother, she was a real pig! Just a complaining, grumbling pig! That’s exactly what you are going to be like in 20 years. Your gluttony will develop, you’ll be just like your mom! A pig. You eat with such gluttony! Oh, and don’t get me started about your father. He can’t even write using English characters! Ya know, recently he wrote a letter to my family – lemme tell you, we all got a good laugh out of it. He couldn’t even write the characters properly. Did that bastard even graduate elementary school? What a crude family. It’s a cultural slum! Someone should just soak the house in kerosene and burn it to the ground. It’ll finally just sizzle away with all that blubber.”
“If that’s how you feel, why are you marrying me?”
But he ignored the question, and called her a pig again.
“Oh God, and your pussy! It’s really nasty. I mean, yeah, I’m done – but jeez, it just hangs there like it’s made out of cheap gum! Lemme tell you, if it were me I would rather die than have such a thing attached to me. If I were a woman and looked like that, I would just die of embarrassment. It doesn’t even matter what kind of death – any kind of death at all would be better than living with such shame.”
She stood there in shock. “You…That’s…”
Suddenly, the man grabbed his own head. Warping his face into a pained expression, he squatted down. He began to tear at his temples with his fingers. “It hurts!” he shouted. “My head is going to come apart! It won’t stop! It hurts!!”
“Are you okay?” she asked him.
“No I’m not okay! I can’t take it! My skin is tingling like it’s on fire!”
She touched his face with her hand. His face was hot enough to be on fire. She tried to comfort him, but when she touched him his skin, like some sort of outer layer peeling, came right off! Then, mucous-like red muscles came into view. Gasping, she backed up hurriedly.
He stood up, giving an evil laugh. Using his own hands, he removed the rest of the skin from his face. His eyeballs sank down. His nose became two simple black holes. His lips gone, his teeth stood out exposed. Those teeth were giving the evil laugh.
“The reason I am with you,” he said, “Is so that I can eat your pork-like meat! Is there another reason I would date you? Don’t you understand at least that much? Are you an idiot? Are you an idiot? Are you an idiot? Hahahahahahaha!”
Saying that, the mass of exposed muscle began to chase after her. She ran and ran, but she couldn’t escape from the bag of flesh behind her. Just as she made it to the edge of the graveyard, a hand grabbed her blouse’s collar. She screamed as loud as she could.
He was clutching her body.
Her throat was dry. He smiled at her.
“What’s the matter? Did you have a bad dream?”
She lifted her body, looked around. They were in bed, in a hotel near the lake. She shook her head.
“Did I scream?”
“Terribly,” he replied, laughing. “It was a really huge shriek. I bet everyone in the hotel heard it. I mean if there was a murderer or something it’d be okay, but…”
“Sorry,” she said.
“No big deal,” he replied. “Was it a bad dream?”
“A dream so bad you couldn’t imagine.”
“Well, will you tell me about it?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.
“But it’s better to talk about it! If you tell someone about it you’ll stop shaking like that.”
“It’s alright. Right now, I just don’t want to talk.”
The two of them lay in silence for a bit. She was hugging his naked chest. The purring voices of frogs could be heard from a distance. His chest was moving, pulsing slowly and certainly.
“Hey,” she said, at last continuing her thoughts. “Can I ask you something?”
“By any chance, do I have moles in my ear?”
“Moles?” he said. “You mean the three ugly ones in your right ear?”
She shut her eyes. It wasn’t over.

And there you have it.

Eh? Eh? I did that by meself! I understood a whole zombie comentary on marriage using only asian squiggles! And my computer dictionary...
Well done--thanks for sharing the fruit of your creative labor with us,

Thanks for the words. There are more stories coming. The one I am doing now seems so far to be sci-fi/fantasy in nature. This Murakami guy is swell.
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