Alfred Birnbaum was born in the United States and raised in Japan from age five. He studied at Waseda University, Tokyo, under a Japanese Ministry of Education scholarship, and has been a freelance literary and cultural translator since 1980.
From March 1977 to June 1979 Birnbaum, William Shurtleff, and Akiko Aoyagi did extensive field research and translation in Japan on natto, hamanatto and Daitokuji natto. This material was later published (in various formats) by Soyinfo Center, a research and publishing company in Lafayette, California.
Birnbaum's translations include Haruki Murakami's Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, 1973, A Wild Sheep Chase, Dance Dance Dance, Underground, and other works; Miyabe Miyuki's All She Was Worth; and Natsuki Ikezawa's A Burden of Flowers. He also compiled the short story anthology Monkey Brain Sushi: New Tastes in Japanese Fiction.
Alfred Birnbaum is currently serving as a professor of creative writing and translation at Waseda University's School of International Liberal Studies.