Two recent resources on Korean literature in translation

Recent translation specials

First, very hot off the press — uploaded to the Taylor & Francis website yesterday — is the Translation Review Korea special. As with most academic publications, this title is phenomenally expensive, so best to consult it via your university library online resources. Here’s the table of contents:

  • Introduction: They Like to Sing and Dance but They Don’t Like to Read (Bruce Fulton)
  • Roundtable discussion on Korean Fiction in English translation (Bruce Fulton, Philip Gowman, Tony Malone, Colin Marshall)
  • Columbia University Press and Korean literature (Jennifer Crewe)
  • Can Korean-to-English literary translation be taught? (Ross King)
  • Thinking through intertextuality in Korean pop music videos (CedarBough T. Saeji)
  • In honor of Marshall R. Pihl: A comprehensive review of his translations of Korean literature (Sang-Bin Lee)
  • Twenty–first–century pleasures: some notes on form, media transformation, and Korean literary translation (Wayne de Fremery)
  • Suggested readings in Korean literature in English translation (Bruce Fulton)

Thanks to Bruce Fulton for including Tony, Colin and myself in a fun conversation. It all seems rather a long time ago now.

Second, and free, is a paper by Brother Anthony on the history of translated Korean literature. Veteran translator Brother Anthony has uploaded onto his site the text and slides of his recent talk for the Seoul Colloquium in Korean Studies (10 June). The talk is entitled Korean Poetry and Fiction in English Translation: A Personal Survey. With around 60 published titles in his roster of translations (excluding the many translations available online or awaiting publication) Anthony can probably claim with justice to be the most prolific translator of Korean literature ever, and so has a unique perspective on the subject.1

The talk is a fascinating read, laying out the history of the translation into English of Korean literature, from James Scarth Gale to the latest K-thriller. It’s is full of interesting facts, including one that surprised me: it was not until 1979 that we got an English translation of a 20th century Korean novel: Kim Dong-ni’s Ulhwa the Shaman, translated by Ahn Jung-hyo. Before then, it was all short stories and poetry.

Since that 1979 milestone, according to my own count, we’ve had nearly 150 Korean novels published in English. If Barbara Zitwer’s site is a good indicator, many more are currently seeking a publisher. I’m particularly eager to see in print some of the latest novels that Anthony reveals he’s working on, including two by Gong Ji-young. But who knows when they might be published?

Go read the full paper on Brother Anthony’s website.

Update: a video of Brother Anthony’s talk has now been uploaded and is freely available. You can find the link on the RASKB website here. You can also find his valedictory talk as RASKB President “2011-2020: The President is a Prolific Translator” (8 December 2020) on YouTube.

  1. He’s certainly the most-credited translator in LKL’s Korea Book Database – with Bruce Fulton coming a respectable second at around 40 titles to his name, most of them co-translated with his wife Ju-Chan []

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