“Convenience Store Human” by Sayaka Murata. Sound unfamiliar? That’s the literal title of the smash-hit 2016 novel “コンビニ人間” (konbini ningen). When it appeared in English less than two years later, it did so under a different name: “Convenience Store Woman.”

Of course, this isn’t a misrepresentation or a poor translation by any means. The main character is a woman, and themes of femininity, gender roles and their expectations, are crucial to the text. Just as importantly, “コンビニ人間” has the same natural feeling and punchiness that “Convenience Store Woman” has, whereas “Convenience Store Human” just feels ... odd.

It goes to show that a key component of reading 日本文学 (nihon bungaku, Japanese literature) in the original is understanding what is normal — or in linguistic terms, “unmarked” — and what language is “marked.” Marked language draws attention to itself with its sound, symbolism, strangeness and complex idiomatic meaning. Importantly, it plays a significant role in shaping the deeper meaning of any 小説 (shōsetsu, novel) — the meaning that exists between the lines, beyond just the simple words on the page.