Monday, 28 March 2011

1Q84

The cover for the US edition of the huge seller by Haruki Murakami has been revealed. I had wondered what they'd do with it, as its title, 1Q84, reads as "1Q84" or "1984" in Japanese (in which "kyu" is "9"). That word play just doesn't work in English, unless enough readers are familiar with numbers 1 to 10 in Japanese, or just enjoy learning of the word play after the fact. Or perhaps the questioning "Q" provides just enough of a game in English to hide/reveal the "1984" behind it. (Though it does still read in English at a glance as "IQ84" as though it's about someone with a low intelligence quotient. I guess his following does not rely on knowledge of the book coming at a random glance!)

Many books have titles adapted to allegedly suit readers in different countries, and I had thought this might be one. Maybe it's just such a big publishing event that the original title became known from the Japanese long before it made it to translation. (Personally, my own enthusiasm for Murakami's brand of surrealism ran out some years ago – I prefer his straight and documentary work – so I won't be first in line, but there are many thousands waiting.)

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