On Friday, September 20, Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ) held the first event of its new Author-Translator Series on the novel Convenience Store Woman with author Sayaka Murata, and English translator Ginny Tapley Takemori.
Convenience Store Woman (コンビニ人間 in Japanese), follows the story of Keiko Furukura, an unusual woman who finds solace in working at a Japanese convenience store. Murata and Takemori each read the first two pages of the novel in Japanese and English respectively. They then spoke to the book’s uniqueness in the contemporary Japanese literature landscape, and the process of translating a novel set in this culturally-specific environment.
Following questions from the moderator, Mariko Nagai, TUJ professor and director of research, the floor was open for audience questions. The author and translator responded to a broad range of topics, from the international response to the novel, to the concept of normalcy as an oppressive social structure, to what they would say to Keiko if they had a chance to speak with her.
The heart of the Q&A session was the discussion of reader reactions to the novel. Murata described responses from readers who saw, despite her social ineptitude, a certain heroic view of Keiko’s character and the freedoms which come from living outside social norms. As Takemori described, no matter the country, individuals feel the pressures of society in many areas of life. TUJ students also shared their responses to the book, and how Keiko’s character affected their perceptions of Japan.
Murata read and responded to questions in Japanese with English interpretation, and Takemori read and responded to questions in English. The bilingual nature of the event conveyed the different experiences of reading the novel, and the joy and nuance of language.
Organized by TUJ’s research and library, the Convenience Store Woman event was an opportunity to share with readers of this prize-winning novel the excitement of contemporary literature. We look forward to hosting the next installment of the Author-Translator Series.