Here we go again: 160 books nominated for international award? Zero are Korean

I first noticed this at the indispensible Literary Saloon in a  post titled  International Dublin Literary Award nominations Hat tip to the inevitable^^ M.A.Orthofer). The article mentions an award given annually by the Dublin City Council. The list of nominated books has come out, and for those of us who love translated lKorean fiction the results are not all that surprising.

The folks at the Dublin LIterary award begin by describing the award itself as:

The … International Dublin Literary Award, the €100,000 prize which has “libraries in capital and major cities throughout the world” (“in 118 cities and 44 countries”, this time around) nominate novels: “first published in English between 1st January 2014 and 31st December 2014” (and, if translated, “first published in a language other than English between 1st January 2010 and 31st December 2014”), has now announced the 160 nominated titles for the 2016 prize.

The article goes on to note that of this number an impressive fifty-three titles from nineteen different languages are on the list. As in years passed, and awards passed, Korea has been completely overlooked, receiving no nominations.

The Dubliin Literary Award flatly notes:

Nominations include 53 novels in translation with works by 44 American, 25 British, 10 Canadian, 10 Australian, 6 German and 3 South African authors.

That seems, to b polite, rather Western-centric. This is not unbelievable for an award for works printed in English. Now, strangely, the award is given for works published two years ago, but that list in Korean would have included:

Park Min-gyu: Pavane for a Dead Princess
Choi In-Ho: Another Man’s City
(Any of the Dalkey books for that matter)
Gong Ji-Young: Our Happy Time
Shin Kyung-sook: I’ll Be Right There
Hwang Sok-yong: The Shadow of Arms

Just to name a few that pop to mind. Perhaps the Asia Publishing series were considered too close to novellas, but they also would have provided candidates. As I look through the fine-print I see that award nominations are in collaboration between the award committee and libraries, which suggests that the problem here might well come from both the Korea and Irish side of things:

The nomination process for the Award is unique as nominations are made by libraries in capital and major cities throughout the world. Participating libraries can nominate up to three novels each year for the Award.Over 400 library systems in 177 countries worldwide are invited  to nominate books each year. Dublin City Libraries actively seek out and encourage nominations from countries  who have not previously nominated books for the award. Libraries interested in participating should contact the organisers for details.

Still, in the relentless Korean desire to win prizes, particularly the Nobel Prize for Literature, doesn’t it seem as though it might be useful to win a few other awards on the way? To, metaphorically, run a few 5K races before expecting to win the marathon? And from the DCL point of view it should be noted that not only Korea got stiffed:

But translations from the Arabic ?
None
Translations from the Chinese ?
None
Translations from the Korean ?
None
Translations from the Japanese ?
Hey ! One.

That is the definition of appallingly western-centric.

KTLIT has discussed this kind of problem before:
The Three Percent Dissolution: How to fail at “International Literature” from the University of Rochester
The “Man Asian Literary Prize” includes no Korean Candidates.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply