A Rare Chance to compare Translations

Wednesday is my kick around Seoul and visit bookshops day. On this day I might have had too much coffee, as I bought a book for a second time. The book is “Modern Korean Short Stories and Plays” (Published in 1970 by the Korean branch of P.E.N.). But at least I bought it for a reason, even if that reason was, well, a bit off.

One of the titles, “The Constant Doctor” caught my eye. For some reason I thought it might be another version of “Dr. Chung” (From Hahn Moo Sook’s “In the Depths, reviewed below). When I opened it up I realized that I was dead wrong about that, but dead right that it was a story I recognized. This was in fact an earlier translation of “Kapitan Ri” by Chon Kwangyong, which is one of the stories in “Land of Exile,” which I reviewed, a few years ago, for Acta Koreana.

I don’t have “Land of Exile” with me at the moment, it is either at work or in storage in Daejeon, but I do have the little blurb I wrote (in the context of the much larger review) about it:

“Kapitan Ri” is a clever portrayal of the collaborator. Dr. Yi Inguk is a cheery collaborator with a “can-do” attitude extending to everyone except Koreans. He is exuberantly proud of his past collaborations and the story is partly of his accepting his new collaborators. Yi reminisces on the tangible fruits of his collaboration with the Japanese, recounts how he came to terms with the Soviets, and comes to realize that the American “big-noses” are another such opportunity despite his discomfort that his daughter is marrying one.

Now I’m dying to get my hands on my copy of the “Land of Exile” and see what, besides the radically different titles, the differences are between “Kapitan Ri” and “The Constant Doctor.” I will say, the latter title seems a lot more explicative of the content of the story, and I wonder why the later translation stepped away from meaning and towards specificity?

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