Originally Posted by Saucemaster
I also love Haruki Murakami, but Japanese and English are such different languages that I just don't trust that the Haruki Murakami I read in English is the same Haruki Murakami who's writing in Japanese.
Murakami is one who loves the West and English/American lit in particular, so while you are correct that the translations are definitely not what is in the original, you are safer with Murakami than with some other Japanese authors. Kawabata Yasunari is one that jumps to mind as one who uses Japanese so fluidly and in a very Japanese way that the translations can't really come close.
Nevertheless, that's not to say that editors don't have their way with his texts. Japan doesn't edit its novelists in the way that major publishing houses in America do and so Knopf's editors sometimes take it upon themselves to cut out, alter, or revise sections of his work from the original. Fans of Wind-up Bird Chronicle, for example, might know that there is a large section from the original cut out in the American version because the editors thought it was redundant and would make the book too long.
In general, though, you are right about japanese and English... I think that being a Japanese literature translator would be the hardest job in the world. I once had the dream notion of translating "Kyoko's House," a major novel by Mishima that has never been translated into English, and made it through a few pages before realizing that it would both take the rest of my life and still sound really dull and flat. It's one thing to read it, another to try to bring it alive into another language. Rubin and the two or three other Murakami translators, over all, do a pretty great job.