While I am not going to go into that book in detail in this post, in the the article I found there was a short passage quoted (bold was added by me):
When I read this, I was caught off guard by the usage of “もうひとつ” (mou hitotsu), which is a set phrase that is frequently used to mean “one more”. However, if you look in the dictionary you will see it also means “a little more” (もう少し).
However, that second definition doesn’t seem to fit the context here, where the speaker is picking up an apple (the first one, presumably) and trying to examine it.
I asked a Japanese person about this and was told it means something like “a little”. This is ironic, since this meaning isn’t directly in the common usages of もう (already) or ひとつ (one). However for the latter, if you look in the dictionary you actually see this meaning: (there is a total of 12 meanings there, wow!)
The part in bold means “when used as an adverb, can also signify ‘a little’ “.
Anyway, the author of the article in question had asked me how I would translate this, and since I didn’t want to translate just a sentence I thought I would do the whole paragraph to get full context. Although I am big fan of Murakami, I have purposefully stayed away from translating his work since I’m fairly certain it is all either translated and published or licensed to be so. But I thought that a single paragraph wouldn’t hurt (:
Next, he went to the fruit case and took out an apple. He inspected it from various angles under the lighting. There was just something about it he didn’t like. He returned it and picked up another one, examining it in the same way. He repeated this process again and again, finally choosing an apple that was acceptable–though by no means ideal.
This translation is a little rougher than most of those I put on my site (for example, it has three sentences that start with ‘He’ which is a bit awkward), but I’m just including it here to show how you could translate the “もうひとつ気に入らない” phrase in question (see the bold part above).
If you want to see the entire discussion in question you can see it as comments in the article here. The translation I posted as a comment there is slightly different than the one I put here, which is edited a little more.
*UPDATE: I got an update from Dan (of Reajer.com), who agreed that this phrasing was odd when just looking at this paragraph, so he went back to the previous paragraph. He discovered that the main character is complaining about milk there, which makes the “もうひとつ気に入らない” about the apple make more sense with this added context. Given this, it simply means what you would expect it to, “This was one more thing he didn’t like.”
Interestingly, in the English translation I saw it is rendered as, “It is not quite good enough.” This means one of three things:
- Dan’s interpretation is correct, and the translator of the published English translation purposefully didn’t literally translate it using “one more” for some reason.
- Dan’s interpretation is correct, and the translator made a mistake and translated more like I did.
- Dan’s interpretation is incorrect.
I’m guessing #1.
This is a great lesson about the importance of context across paragraphs. I should have went further back when this expression first caught my eye. If I had the book in front of me, I might have.