I can’t believe that we’re already almost through January (although the current -11C weather is making me increasingly desperate for the spring). Fortunately, I’m finding some great ways to while away these freezing winter months with the usual combination of tea and books. One of my goals for 2019 was to add some new literary documentaries into this mix, as well. Although I absolutely love learning about my favourite literary figures and jump on any newly discovered biography with enthusiasm, I haven’t quite managed to translate this into a crossover with my love of documentaries. And there are just so many incredible literary documentaries out there – Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold and Gabo: The Creation Of Gabriel Garcia Marquez are, in my view, two of the most interesting.
This weekend, I was able to add a new author-inspired documentary to my list of favourites. I came across Dreaming Murakami by accident a while ago, in an article on Words without Borders that I stumbled across whilst hunting out interviews with Haruki Murakami. I forgot about it almost immediately, until last week, when I spotted an event on Facebook for a free streaming event. Once again snow-bound in my apartment, I settled in last night to enjoy this incredible documentary. Although the author himself doesn’t appear in the film, it is the perfect encapsulation of what Murakami looks to achieve through his work. The documentary itself follows Mette Holm, Murakami’s Danish translator, as she works on a translation of Murakami’s debut novel Hear the Wind Sing. As she travels around Japan and describes the struggles of capturing Murakami’s unique fictional worlds in other languages, reality becomes increasingly blurred. Because alongside Mette Holm’s fascinating insights is a parallel story of a two-metre tall frog, trying to secure the translator’s assistance in a battle against Worm – an unseen being that we are told is waking and ready to spew out hatred into the world. Much as with Murakami’s own works, the appearance of these fictional and bizarre entities doesn’t feel as jarring as you might expect. In a documentary about translating the author’s novels, this layer of the fantastical feels incredibly natural and, if anything, gives us an even better grasp on the intricacies of the work performed by people like Mette Holm. It’s an absolutely fascinating documentary that achieves so much in its short 58 minutes and I totally recommend giving it a watch. If you aren’t a fan of Murakami’s work, it is still an incredible insight into the work of literary translators and will give you a new level of respect for the struggles that they face.