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Buckwheat tops the translation league table

Buckwheat (Studio MWP)
Buckwheat in flower, from the opening scenes of Studio Meditation With a Pencil’s adaptation of the story. Interestingly, Studio MWP have also adapted at least three other titles from the list: The Shower, A Lucky Day and Picture of a Shaman Sorceress

As I’ve been logging the various publications during the construction of LKL’s K-lit hub, I’ve been keeping an eye on those stories which appear most often in English translation, whether in an anthology or a standalone publication. Charles Montgomery has always said that When the Buckwheat Blooms is the most published story, and I’ve yet to unearth any evidence to prove him wrong.

Here’s the current league table based on the books I’ve logged so far. The score represents the number of separate publications that have included the story in translation, excluding journals and magazines.

When the Buckwheat Blooms (Yi Hyo-seok) 8
Seoul, 1964, Winter (Kim Seung-ok) 7
The Shaman Painting / Picture of a Shaman Sorceress (Kim Dong-ni) 7
Potatoes / Sweet Potato (Kim Dong-in) 6
The Rock / The Crag * (Kim Dong-ni) 6
The Shower / Cloudburst (Hwang Sun-won) 6
Wings (Yi Sang) 6
A Lucky Day (Hyeon Jin-geon) 5
Record of a journey to Mujin (Kim Seung-ok) 5
The Poetry of John / Poems of John the Baptist (Chang Yong-hak) 5
The Snowy Road / Footprints in the Snow (Yi Cheong-jun) 5

(* I’m pretty sure these are the same story. But when so few anthologies have the discipline of providing the original titles and dates of publication of the stories, sometimes you have to take an educated guess).

Click on any of the author links to be taken to a list of their publications in English.

Now be honest: how many of the above titles have you both read and enjoyed? I think I’ve scored 9 out of 11 in terms of reading. But I can’t say that I’d encourage a generalist reader to sample any of those without a gentle word of warning that there are other stories available.

Most of the above authors have several stories that have been translated into English. But Chang Yong-hak, as far as the English-language readership is concerned, is known only for Poems of John the Baptist (which is one of the two in the above list I haven’t yet read). I wonder what else he wrote.

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