Literary translation is a time-consuming, often solitary work, haunted by its relationship to the original text: Failure lurks in almost every word that needs to be translated. The complexity of this subject is well suited for linguistic or philosophical contemplation, rarely it attracts the interest of a broader public. Yet, the young filmmaker Nitesh Anjaan manages to do exactly that: His film about translation became a darling of the public at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival. Dreaming Murakami is the fascinating portrait of Mette Holm who, since almost 20 years, translates the work of Japanese author Haruki Murakami into Danish. Despite its complex subject, Anjaan’s approach is playful. His imaginary world crosses with the translator’s own, sometimes they come together at one of the strangely poetic film locations in Japan; bars and restaurants that seem like frontiers between waking and dreaming. There also is a giant frog who frequently trudges across the screen. Who is he? He comes from a Murakami tale but in the film’s context he could also be interpreted as the author’s spectre, or the alter egos of the translator and filmmaker. Above all, he appears to be a messenger from Murakami’s world, urging Holm to plunge into it and retrieve from there, phrase after phrase, the translation. Like a continuous thread, the struggle for a single sentence from Murakami’s early novel Hear the Wind Sing runs through Anjaan’s film. Its final translation is both a perfect ending as well as a last tongue-in-cheek commentary: “There’s no such thing as perfect writing - just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair”.
Nitesh Anjaan is a writer and filmmaker, born in Copenhagen, Denmark. His career as a director first took form as he began filming his dad’s desire to return to India in Far From Home (2014). With no prior experience in film, Anjaan crafted a confrontational and heartfelt documentary which earned him the top prize for debut films at Mumbai Film Festival and a place at the National Film School of Denmark where he is currently enrolled. Combining his love of literature and film, Anjaan’s second feature documentary, Dreaming Murakami which premiered at IDFA last year, follows the Danish translator of Haruki Murakami, Mette Holm, and sheds light on the undervalued art of literary translation. Dreaming Murakami was the most seen film at CPH:DOX 2018 and the top pick among audiences at Hot Docs in Toronto this year for best mid-length film. Anjaan is also the author of the novel Kind of Blue (2016).