A tall man, Mukherjee, 57, talks in a slow, deliberate baritone. “I took to Japanese when I was in my 30s, I was already a lecturer at the engineering department here. I had an aptitude for languages, and soon I won a scholarship to visit Japan in 1997. A year later, I was offered the chance to teach at Kanazawa University in Ishikawa Prefecture,” says Mukherjee. During his year-long tenure there, he fell in love with Japanese culture. “They pursue aesthetics as a discipline. I find that fascinating,” says Mukherjee, who has been approved by Murakami to translate the novel.
“One would have thought that a person who has been translated into 50 languages wouldn’t care about just another translation,” says Abhijit Gupta, director, JU Press. “We had been emailing Murakami’s literary agents, Curtis Brown, since January this year, they were slow to reply. We were nervous because this is the first time Murakami is being translated officially into any Indian language,” he says. Things were still up in the air till Mukherjee visited the literary agency’s office in London that very month. “The publishers, Vintage, informed us that Murakami would personally go through the resume of the translator before he gives his approval. Murakami is also particular about the cover of his books, even translations,” says Gupta.