Alfred Birnbaum first moved to Japan at the age of five and has lived in Tokyo over forty years. Recipient of a Japanese Ministry of Education scholarship, he has translated contemporary Japanese fiction since 1980, including most notably the early novels of Haruki Murakami (A Wild Sheep Chase, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Dance Dance Dance), as well as works by Natsuki Ikezawa (A Burden of Flowers, The Navidad Affair), Miyuki Miyabe (All She Was Worth) and Toshihiko Yahagi (The Wrong Goodbye). His co-translation of Murakami's Underground, a documentation of the Aum cult's 1995 sarin gas attack, won the 2001 Sasakawa Foundation Translation Award.
Further postgraduate studies in Burmese language and culture at the University of London School of African and Asian Studies and the Institute of Foreign Languages in Yangon led him to marry and live in Myanmar for almost a decade. He and his wife Thi Thi Aye’s co-translation of the Burmese novel Smile as They Bow by Nu Nu Yi Inwa was shortlisted for the 2007 Man Asia Literary Prize.
Birnbaum resides in Tokyo and Kyoto, and is also active in the visual and performing arts fields.