Monday, November 2, 2009

Getting Closer to the Nobel Prize

Two friends of mine were featured in the Korea Times today for their efforts to translate a work of Korean literature into English!!! Amazing, I can't wait to read it!
Getting Closer to the Nobel Prize

By Han Sang-hee
Staff Reporter

A Korean writer winning the Nobel Prize for literature may seem like a distant wish, but with more efforts from people like Jessica Conte and Han Hae-min, that dream may well materialize in the future.

We have so many good works of literature but there are few translated ones). I feel the need of more translated literary works, so someday the Nobel Prize may go to a Korean writer,'' said Han, who, along with Conte, won the Commendation Award in Fiction for the 40th Modern Korean Literature Awards.

``Jessica and I have always talked about the lack of English translations of Korean literature and movies. Although there are many good works, when they are translated in English there are mistranslations and even grammar mistakes. We felt this was so unfortunate,'' Han said.
Conte, 26, and Han, 30, chose famed novelist Jeon Gyeong-rin's ``An Angel Stays Here'' for the contest.

``Jeong is one of Hae-min's favorite writers, and she recommended her right away. An Angel Stays Here is such a thought-provoking piece that covers very controversial topics, Her language is very precise and the cadence of her narration is wonderful. The story itself was fascinating, but the protagonist's interaction with the world around her was even more compelling,'' Conte said.

``Her work contains many Korean issues like the present status of Korean women, domestic violence, and the beauty of Korea's scenery. We wanted a female author who was liberal and wrote about Korean women,'' Han added.

Like any other translator, finding the perfect word or expression can take days, and this was exactly what happened to the two.

``One of the biggest difficulties was translating metaphors in a way that was consistent with writer's style. At these times, Hae-min and I would sit down with the passage in question and discuss what it meant to us and what it meant in terms of the overall narrative. I remember going over one particularly descriptive passage for hours, talking about things like smell, color, and emotion and how they dealt with the protagonist's development,''' Conte said.

Conte and Han have each experienced the difficulties and joys in mastering another language: Conte, who was born in the United States, started learning Korean three years ago through language exchange programs and lectures, while Han, who is currently teaching Korean to foreigners at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, learned English through her students.

As both serious learners who went through a quite pleasant literary journey together, Conte and Han had worries and suggestions to encourage more English translations of Korean books.

``I think the Korean government should support the translation of Korean literature. People from other countries know a lot about Japanese literature, because there are lots of translated Japanese works in other countries. This makes people interested in Japanese culture too,'' said Han.

Conte mentioned the need for more diversity.

``There are so many great works by Korean writers that the world should see. Also, I think that the best way of creating serious interest in Korean literature and culture would be to have a multitude of translations for each piece. Often you see just one 'definitive' translation of one work. Translation is an interpretative art and we need more than just one perspective,'' she said.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. It is difficult to find Korean literature in translation. I have discovered the "Portable Library of Korean Literature" series from Jimoondang Publishing, some of which are winners of the translation contest.

    I'm coming up on halfway through the series, most of them are very good as literature, and generally the translations are quite readable.