10 In About Translation/ Korean learning journey (:

Korean Literature Books Haul

Once in a (long) while, really love a book haul to make myself happy! Although it comes with the usual post-haul guilt of having too many books unread, and the real dilemma of having even lesser bookshelf space compared to books.

I’ve been wanting to read more Korean literature for a while, and more importantly, I’m actually fascinated by literary translation. Which is why I’ve bought both the original Korean and English translated copies of the books. If I may be even more honest, I bought the books because of the translators. Anton Hur and Deborah Smith are my favourites so far, and I hope to get to read more works from excellent translators. I haven’t read much translated works to be able to form a reasonably well-informed opinion yet, but I feel like both their translated works read really smoothly.

The Court Dancer by Kung-sook Shin and translated by Anton Hur is now my most favourite translated work. Really. I love how Anton managed to transform and translate the long descriptive (and rather convoluted) sentences from Korean into poetic prose in English. It’s smooth and yet manages to contain the amount of detail in the original description. I find that very fascinating.

To me, translation is both a science and an art. It takes skill to be able to read in a foreign language, more so to capture that meaning and style in a different language. At this point, I’m stronger in terms of reading non-fiction and hence I still have a long way to go to improve reading literature.

To be honest, I’ve always harbour a secret desire to get into literary translation. Despite the fact that I’m way much stronger when reading non-fiction texts. hahaha well, one can always improve right? At this point in time, I’m not sure if I’m really suited for it. I think I might do better in terms of non-literary / non-fiction translation.

I’m reading 리진 ( the original version) now, and then trying my hand at translating parts of the prose. And found my version to be so woefully inadequate compared to Anton’s translations. But it’s a fun process. I hope to be able to become a stronger reader in time to come, and to challenge myself again.

At times I feel like I’ve taken the fun out of blogging for myself. I find myself wondering if it’s easier for the readers to access if I write on social media platforms, and what kind of content I should put up in various channels. Come to think about it, I should first and foremost, write for myself. To enjoy putting my thoughts in words, instead of creating content for the sake of doing so (or for the views).

Perhaps that was why I stopped blogging for quite some time. It had somewhat lost that personal touch for me and became one of the things I have to tick-off in that never-ending to-do list. I had enough to-do lists at work, and hence the idea of having even more to do after work was not appealing to me (and I had no time). 2019 should be the year where I leave more time for myself, and things that matter to me.

Of course, if you guys are still around, would always appreciate a comment. 🙂

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  • Reply
    28 April, 2019 at 12:17 PM

    I’m so glad to see that you got new books and are posting about your journey. I also got a book in Korean recently, and although I don’t consider myself anywhere near the level of reading whole books, we all have to start somewhere right? ^^ Following your blog has been a real inspiration because you have come so far, and definitely not without your ups and downs which make me feel that maybe I can do it too. I have been following you on twitter, but there’s something about your longer blog posts that make me feel connected on a deeper level. (Plus there are so many tweets on my feed that many, many tweets just get lost in the haystack)

    • Reply
      28 April, 2019 at 3:27 PM

      Hi Sandy! Thanks for leaving a note 💕 yeahh we all have to start somewhere! Did you get a fiction or non-fiction book? Thanks for liking the blog. We all have ups and downs and what’s important is that we are still on this journey to be better!

      • Reply
        2 May, 2019 at 3:51 PM

        Ah sorry for the late response! I didn’t realize you commented on my reply ^^ I believe it’s a non-fiction book because I remember in one of your blog posts or videos, you mentioned that reading non-fiction may be easier for beginners. One of the singers I’m a fan of mentioned that he read a book, 우리는 누구도 무사히 성장하지 않는다, that talked about (if I remember correctly) why we are we expecting our life to happy 100% of the time and how good and bad times make up our life. I’ve sort of decided I need to take some time for self-discovery, and I thought that might be an interesting book to try and read 🙂

  • Reply
    28 April, 2019 at 1:10 PM

    It’s worth reading what other translators have said about their process and the elements of literary style they consider important. “In Translation” edited by Esther Allen & Susan Bernofsky is a great resource for that. One thing I’ve seen over and over again, proficiency in the language you’re translating from is of course important, but it’s equally important to really know the author and their history and the relevance of their work in the greater literary scene.

    • Reply
      28 April, 2019 at 3:29 PM

      Ooooh would check out the book, thanks! Yes I totally agree. It’s so much more than knowing the languages.

  • Reply
    Tze Shan
    28 April, 2019 at 2:47 PM

    I also bought the same non-fiction books in both Korean and English before because 1) I am not confident of understanding the Korean version fully and 2) I thought it would be another way of improving my reading skills instead of having to check dictionary every 2 lines.

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does this and I really love both your blog and and posts. They inspire me to continue the learning journey.

    Thank you for all the sharing! 🙂

  • Reply
    28 April, 2019 at 9:28 PM

    How many books have you read in korean ? Are you a hoarder ???

    • Reply
      28 April, 2019 at 10:00 PM

      A couple 🙂 Not in general.

  • Reply
    29 April, 2019 at 12:46 AM

    Yes, yes we are still around and always glad to read your inspiring posts ! I really hope you will continue here 🙂

  • Reply
    Evellynn Chua
    10 May, 2019 at 1:16 PM

    Your post is inspiring.
    I would love to do literary translation, but I guess I don’t have a knack for it, hence I’m stuck with normal translations for now.
    I’m still learning Korean, but somehow I can’t get myself to continue further on unlike how I did for my Japanese.
    Any simple books in Korean to recommend for beginners?

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