Found In Translation

The Man Booker International Prize has gone to Han Kang, the first time for a Korean writer:

The Vegetarian, a novel about a woman who ‘wants to reject human brutality’ and gives up eating meat, has won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize.

The book was translated by Deborah Smith, who only started teaching herself Korean in 2010.

Judging panel chairman Boyd Tonkin said South Korean author Han Kang’s work was ‘unforgettably powerful and original’.”

The story behind the English translation is interesting:

“Smith, whose only language was English until she was 21, decided to become a translator on finishing her English Literature degree having noticed the lack of English-Korean translators.

She said she was ‘certainly not a born Korean speaker’ and still spoke Korean ‘very much like somebody who learned it from a textbook’.

‘I had no connection with Korean culture – I don’t think I had even met a Korean person – but I wanted to become a translator because it combined reading and writing and I wanted to learn a language.’

‘Korean seemed like a strangely obvious choice, because it is a language which practically nobody in this country [England] studies or knows’.”

This is definitely going on my August / USA vacation reading list.

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4 Responses to Found In Translation

  1. Katherine says:

    u da real Deborah Smith.

    Maybe there is hope yet for my Korean…

    • wetcasements says:

      I’ve been really lazy about studying Korean _and_ reading modern Korean literature.

      • Katherine says:

        I’ve been reading modern Korean lit in fits and starts, but what gets translated and hyped isn’t always to my taste. (See “Please Look After Mom.”) I’ve been hearing the Goldilocks amount of hype for “The Vegetarian” so my hopes are high. (“Your Republic is Calling You” was good, fwiw.)

  2. Katherine says:

    *u da real MVP, even.

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