As I’ve been looking back at the books of 2016 I realise that there are a few recent publications I missed. Here are some of them, along with some that are advertised to be out this year.
I do wish there was a decent source to tell you what’s new or coming up soon. Publishers’ websites don’t routinely give you the ability to filter their titles by publication date. It would be *so* easy but they just don’t seem to think it would be useful to their users.
With that mini-rant over, here are the titles I’ve come across, along with shameless links to Amazon which might mean that one day I get a free book from them.
Looking at the names being translated, it seems that Pyun Hye-young has come into favour. I’m wondering what criteria those who fund the translations apply when deciding which authors to support. Pyun’s themes include the grim and often faceless nature of urban life – hardly likely to endear her to any bureaucrats wanting to portray a rosy picture of Korea – and she, or someone with the same name as her, is on the government blacklist for supporting the Sewol protesters. But with two, possibly three, translations in the space of twelve months she must be doing something right.
Dalkey’s library of Korean literature
Another batch of six titles was released (almost completely) without any fanfare towards the end of 2016. One of the set, Eun Hee-kyung’s Beauty Despises Me, is still awaiting publication as it’s not listed on Dalkey’s website and Amazon doesn’t have the cover image yet, but it is expected soon.
But in principle it’s an interesting spread of work from the 1930s (Ch’ae Man-sik) to the 21st century (Eun Hee-kyung, Kim Jung-hyuk, Pyun Hye-young). OK, another mini-rant: why on earth don’t publishers of translated literature routinely say, in the book’s blurb, when it was that the original text was written and/or first published? Surely that’s an easy, and free, fact which is both interesting and relevant, and which means you have to buy one or two fewer words from whoever writes your marketing copy.
Translated literature from other publishers
I’ve only just got my hands on Deborah Smith’s translation of Bae Suah’s A Greater Music, and won’t have time to read it before the arrival of the follow-up from that duo, Recitation. Sora Kim Russell has not been idle either, with Jeon Sung-tae’s Wolves and Pyun Hye-young’s The Hole coming this year. According to the Korea Times, Pyun Hye-young signed a two-book deal with Arcade Publishing including The Hole. The other title, Ashes and Red, was meant to have been published towards the end of 2016 but I can’t find any record of it anywhere.
Also coming in 2017 is Lee Jung-myung’s The Boy who escaped Paradise (tr Kim Chi-young) and Kim Young-ha’s I hear your voice (tr Krys Lee). I was disappointed by Lee Jung-myung’s The Investigation so I won’t rush out to get the new one. But anything from Kim Young-ha has got to be at the top of the wishlist.
Update to the above
With thanks to Michael, Sora, Timothy and Tony, some updates to the above (and I’ve also incorporated a correction in respect of Eun Hee-kyung’s Dalkey volume into the text).
The prolific Bruce and Ju-chan Fulton have translated another of Cho Chongnae’s works. The Human Jungle came out in 2016, exploring the pitfalls and opportunities of modern China. There are plenty of reviews online, but I missed them.
Upcoming are three big translations:
- Deborah Smith’s translation of The Accusation, by a “North Korean dissident writer known to us only by the pseudonym Bandi” (according the the publisher’s blurb) is bound to attract attention.
- Deborah Smith’s translation of Han Kang’s 2016 novel The White Book is currently scheduled for November, from Portobello
- Sora Kim Russell’s translation of Hwang Sok-yong’s Familiar Things (originally published in June 2011 by Munhak Dongne) will also fight for attention among serious followers of Korean literature in translation.
Also expected is the second Korean title from Tilted Axis Press: Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale, translated by Janet Hong.
From University of Hawai’i Press comes an expanded Anthology of Traditional Korean Literature compiled and edited by Peter H Lee, divided into sections covering verse, prose, fiction, and oral literature. According to the publisher, “it includes previously undervalued or suppressed texts such as Koryo love lyrics, shamanist narrative songs, and p’ansori-creations composed in the mind, retained in memory, sung to audiences, and heard, not read.”
Novels in English
Last but definitely not least is fiction written in English. I’m particularly looking forward to getting my hands on Lee Min-jin’s Pachinko, a multi-generation family saga set among the Koreans in Japan. Her Sex and the City style debut Free Food for Millionaires was a guilty pleasure, and the South China Morning Post seems enthusiastic about her follow-up novel which was almost 30 years in the making. Self-recommending are the latest releases in the Inspector O and Sergeants Sueno and Bascom series (James Church and Martin Limon respectively). The latter crime series, set in the military black markets of 1970s and 1980s Seoul, makes for great holiday reading, while Inspector O has a devoted following among North Korea watchers.
Finally, a debut novel from New York-based Jimin Han entitled A Small Revolution “explores the volatile space between love and loss, desperation and deed” as the 1980 Gwangju uprising reverberates in 21st century Pennsylvania.
|Min Jin Lee||7 Feb 2017||Pachinko|
|James Church||13 Jan 2017||The Gentleman from Japan|
|Martin Limon||30 May 2017||Ping-Pong Heart|
|Martin Limon||3 Oct 2017||The Nine-Tailed Fox|
|Jimin Han||1 May 2017||A Small Revolution|
Let me know what I’ve missed. There *must* be a better way of doing this than happening to see a post on the translator’s Facebook feed.