Online Resources – an update

Resources

Last year the stars seemed to align somewhat for Korean literature in English translation. We saw Han Kang’s The Vegetarian translated by Deborah Smith winning the Man Booker International Prize and a swathe of new titles were published in the UK and USA.

The LTI Korea restyled and renamed their quarterly magazine _list and are now providing a much better online offering with Korean Literature Now, which is also available in print for anyone who wishes to subscribe. The magazine includes critiques and commentary, reviews and news, and most important of all translations of poetry and prose, many of which are as yet unavailable in bookstores.

An update to the Koreana magazine website means that there are now many short stories available online without a log-in, and in a wider range of languages than you will find anywhere else. Stories like The Street Magician by Kim Jong-ok, Plaza Hotel by Kim Mi-wol, Everyone Loves Girls’ Generation by Lee Young-hoon, and The Wayfarer Never Rests on the Road by Lee Ze-ha.

There have also been more gems of short fiction and excerpts cropping up all over the web. Here are just a few:

 

On top of all this FREE Korean literature in English, a few blogs have been covering Korean literature more intensively recently.

Tony’s Reading List has a three-part guide on Korean literature for beginners.

London Korean Links is keeping on top of new book publications.

And the Los Angeles Review of Books has a growing collection of articles on Korean literature, such as these on where to start reading Korean literature in translation, an update on the cultural blacklist, Korean literature in the post-colonial era, and the forces that have shaped Korean literature in translation.

Happy Reading!

Recent Publications and Research Monographs

Resources

Recent Publications

The translator Brother Anthony has been compiling a number of lists of works in translation. Among these is a list of works published in English since 2012. It looks right up to date, even including a number of books forthcoming this year.

The list can be found here: http://anthony.sogang.ac.kr/TranslationsKoreanRecent.html

It’s interesting to note the large proportion of poetry in translation published since 2012, which considering the poetry of many of the names on the list is a great indicator that translators working from Korean to English laugh in the face of the idea of ‘impossibility’ when it comes to translating experimental works!

There is also another very useful list on Brother Anthony’s homepage of short stories contained in anthologies. Given the importance of the short story in the Korean literary world and the confusion caused by different romanizations of authors’ names, this list which includes the Korean for each author’s name is a helpful tool for tracking down the story/author you’re looking for.

The list is here: http://hompi.sogang.ac.kr/anthony/klt/Anthologies.htm

 

Research Monographs

The following is an overview of recent research monographs focusing on Korean literature published in English in the last four years. It’s really exciting to see monographs coming out which examine the period following the end of colonialism and the works which do examine the colonial period have great depth and focus. Over the coming weeks we hope to offer more insight into each of these works, so if you haven’t got access to a copy but you need some convincing before you order one, stay tuned.

Youngju Ryu. Writers of the Winter Republic: Literature and Resistance in Park Chung Hee’s Korea. Univ of Hawaii Press. 2015. ISBN: 978-0824839871

Theodore Q. Hughes. Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom’s Frontier. Columbia University Press. 2012. ISBN: 978-0231157483

Sunyoung Park. The Proletarian Wave: Literature and Leftist Culture in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945. Harvard University Asian Center. 2015. ISBN: 978-0674417175

Janet Poole. When the Future Disappears: The Modernist Imagination in Late Colonial Korea. (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University). New York: Columbia University Press. 2014. ISBN: 978-0231165181

Christopher P. Hanscom. The Real Modern: Literary Modernism and the Crisis of Representation in Colonial Korea (Harvard East Asian Monographs). Harvard University Asia Center. 2013. ISBN: 978-0674073265.

 

Reviews and News Articles

Reviews

For a long time now the Korean Literature in Translation blog edited by Charles Montgomery has been reviewing new and not so new Korean literature in translation publications. There are already over 100 reviews on the blog, for a full list see the reviews section of the website.

Also Tony Malone over at Tony’s Reading List has reviewed a large number of Korean titles (especially throughout 2014) including reviews of the Dalkey Archive series of Korean literature in translation, the wonderful anthology Wayferer – New Fiction by Korean Womenedited and translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton, and Jenny Wang Medina’s translation of The Bird by Oh Jung-hee, arguably one of Korea’s most distinguished writers.

Going back to the Dalkey Archive Korean literature series, there was a great article in The New Yorker in October 2015 by Ed Park entitled ‘Sorry Not Sorry.’  Taking the series as a whole and focusing on up and coming writer Lee Ki-ho’s At Least We Can Apologize translated by Christopher J. Dykas, the article sheds light onto the dry, dark comedy which can be found in much Korean literature if you know where to look.

One writer who is really making waves in the news and reviews department at the moment is Han Kang. With the publication of The Vegetarian in 2015 and Human Acts in early 2016, the UK the press and many readers have been captivated by the measured yet overwhelming power of her work. For a general introduction to Han Kang check out these articles from Koreana magazine and Korea.net. If you needed any more convincing to give these two books a read, here is a selection of the reviews that have appeared in the media over the last year or so.

Reviews of The Vegetarian – translated by Deborah Smith
Daniel Hahn in The Guardian : “…a bracing, visceral, system-shocking addition to the Anglophone reader’s diet. It is sensual, provocative and violent, ripe with potent images, startling colours and disturbing questions.”

Julia Pascal in the Independent : “This short novel is one of the most startling I have read.”
“The tension in Han Kang’s multi-layered novel is the way in which the author reveals how nature, sex and art crash through this polite society. Violence erupts without warning. It is described almost casually.”

Joanna Walsh in the New Statesman : “Elegantly translated into bone-spare English by Deborah Smith, The Vegetarian is a book about the failures of language and the mysteries of the physical. Yet its message should not undermine Han’s achievement as a writer. Like its anti-protagonist, The Vegetarian whispers so clearly, it can be heard across the room, insistently and with devastating, quiet violence.”

Gabe Habash in Publishers Weekly: “There is much to admire in Han’s novel. Its three-part structure is brilliant, gradually digging deeper and deeper into darker and darker places; the writing is spare and haunting; but perhaps most memorable is its crushing climax, a phantasmagoric yet emotionally true moment that’s surely one of the year’s most powerful. This is an ingenious, upsetting, and unforgettable novel.”

Reviews of Human Acts – translated by Deborah Smith
Jonathan McAloon in The Telegraph : “Despite death being a fact of every life, for a writer to imagine how this may feel has become stigmatised in realist fiction, associated instead with fantasy or the ghost story. For this reason, the soul sequence in Human Acts threatens to be problematic, but in fact becomes a technical and emotional triumph. Kang’s other world is as solid as it gets.”

Francesca Wade in The Financial Times: “Human Acts portrays people whose self-determination is under threat from terrifying external forces; it is a sobering meditation on what it means to be human.”

Arifa Akbar in the Independent : “The Vegetarian showed Han’s preoccupation with the human body and in Human Acts she captures the paradox of being human: the meat-like, animal reduction of our humanity – the dead bodies of the beginning chapter – alongside our ability to love and suffer for our principles, and die for them, that make us truly human.”

Lucy Scholes in The National : “By its very existence Human Acts is an important and necessary book, but without Han’s astonishing penmanship I doubt it would have been so devastating and vital a work of literature.”

 

If you’d like to turn the spotlight on another author or want to suggest any blogs, news articles or reviews that have been left out just drop us a comment below.

Online Resources

Resources

The following is a list of links to resources on Korean literature and translations available online. It is still under construction so suggestions for additions are welcome.

 

_list Magazine : a quarterly with writer profiles and interviews as well as translation excerpts and themed columns. (Now reworked as Korean Literature Now where all content is free and open but you have to sign up as a user or log in with a Google, Facebook or Twitter account to see full articles.)

Acta Koreana : many of the bi-annual editions of Acta Koreana include literature in translation (usually at the end of the journal). Highlights include a prize winning translation by Agnel Joseph of ‘Afternoon, Cut Through’ by HA SŎNG-NAN and two short stories, ‘Mallow Gardens’ and ‘Corpses’ by  P’YŎN HYE-YŎNG translated by Cindy Chen. (Note: the website seems to be pretty temperamental but all articles are available for download via EBSCOhost if you have access through an educational institution.)

Korea Journal : the website isn’t all that easy to maneuver but a search of ‘literary works’ brings up a great list of short translations including  short fiction by Pak Wanso, poetry by Kim Su-yong and many interesting translations of pre-modern works of literature.

Koreana Magazine : at the end of each edition of Koreana magazine there is a short story in translation and an article about the author written by a Korean literary critic. The articles can be found on their website, while the translations are usually absent from the ebook version of the magazine due to copyright. However, if you have access to EBSCOhost ‘Art Source Publications’ with a log-in from a university library etc. then you will be able to download a PDF of the full text of each translation.
The Koreana short stories tend to be very contemporary with young up and coming authors frequently featured, another good thing about Koreana is that it is available in Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Arabic and Bahasa Indonesia.

Azalea : published by University of Hawaii Press, Azalea is an annual print journal on Korean literature. As it only comes out once a year it’s quite a tome, and well worth searching for in your local university library or bookstore, but they do have some content available free online and if you have a Project MUSE log-in you can get access to even more.

Words Without Borders : the April 2014 edition of Words Without Borders focused on writing from South Korea and its a great compendium of short fiction, excerpts and poems which is well worth a look. WWB also features articles written by Korean author Kim Young Ha, book reviews of recent publications and articles on Korean culture including one by acclaimed translator Sora Kim Russell on LGBT Korea on film.

Asymptote Journal : Asymptote is a really exciting project and it is easy to see exactly what translations they have from Korean just by doing a language query on their homepage. So far it is mainly poetry, translated by a whole host of interesting translators including the prolific Brother Anthony and the author Heinz Insu Fenkl. There is also an excerpt from Ch’oe In-ho’s Another Man’s City translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton.
A great thing about the Asymptote site, especially when it comes to poetry, is that you can listen to a recording of the Korean text being recited as you read the translations.

The White Review : so far The White Review has featured poetry by Ko Un translated by Brother Anthony and Lee Sang-wha, an excerpt from Wolves by Jeon Sungtae translated by Sora Kim Russell and an excerpt from The Vegetarian by Han Kang translated by Deborah Smith.