Italian food with Shin Kyung-sook (신경숙/Please Look After Mom), then a lecture at LTI Korea

Another excellent night at LTI Korea with a lecture (and dinner) with Korean Literature  star Shin Kyung-sook. It was the usual trip from Dongguk University to LTI Korea, although crossing Hannamdaegyo was kind of depressing because you could look down the river and see how smoggy the day was.


As usual I got there a little early and chatted with several of the super-friendly employees there, and everyone was in a little bit of a flutter, because of Shin’s fame.

Then, off to the Italian restaurant, were we had fun talking and Shin was modestly dismissive about her success. At one point when I mentioned that she and a handful of other authors were in effect spearheading the improved success of all Korean literature (Thank you Amazon ripple effect), she responded to the idea of “success” by covering most of her little finger and showing the remaining tip peeking out as a symbol of the impression of her success. She was, of course, the one being modest, since no other Korean author has had the kind of success she has had.


Shin also mentioned that her next novel, I’ll Be Right There, will be coming out this Spring, giving a date that ever so slightly doesn’t agree with Amazon, which says  May 6th, but also noting that the book was already in galley form, which is a very good thing, since it means that publication is in fact getting close.

When I mentioned that I had read her “Where the Harmonium Once Was” she immediately asked me how I thought the translation (by Agnita Tennant) was, and seemed satisfied when I said it was good.

We also exchanged some polite chit-chat, which Shin is quite good at. We hadn’t met in over a year, and she remembered a surprising amount about me. She also spent a lot of time talking to the three Korean-speaking staff members who had come out to dinner, and she kept them interested and laughing, though I could only understand a fraction of what she talked about.^^

NOTE: Student already asleep on the right does NOT reflect the reaction of most people^^

NOTE: Student already asleep on the right does NOT reflect the reaction of most people^^

Then it was off to the 4th floor of the LTI Korea building, and a ¾ full room that Shin at LTI Korea quickly became completely full. I was also waiting for Barry Welsh from the 10 Magazine Book Club (Facebook Page), and he managed to get spectacularly lost in the 800 meters from the subway station to the building (to be fair, the first time I came to LTI I also got completely lost) and so I spent some time ‘talking’ him in on the Facebook App.

Shin spoke for over an hour, and kept the room rapt.

The lecture was completely over my head, so I concentrated on taking pictures, texting with Barry, and occasionally listening very carefully and understanding almost nothing.^^

Then it was question and autograph time. As usual I was struck by the Korean “question style,” which requires (or seems to) the questioner to produce their own 500 word spoken essay before even beginning to ask a question. What’s up with that?^^

Then, as I had with Eun Hee-kyung the week before, I got two copies of the same book autographed, which means that sometime soon KtLIT will be running some kind of give-away so that some lucky reader can win an autographed copy of The Place Where the Harmonium Was, which KtLIT has thoughtfully reviewed here.^^

NOTE: Scratch the last bit, as I was required to surrender one of my books to Barry, who had neglected to bring his own book. Sometimes I wonder about that boy!^^

Students created a massive line, and I waited until it had cleared out to get my autograph, which you can see below. On the “random things I noticed” list, Shin signs autographs with a fountain pen, which is something you don’t see that much these days.

Shin Kyung-sook autograph

3 thoughts on “Italian food with Shin Kyung-sook (신경숙/Please Look After Mom), then a lecture at LTI Korea

  1. Pingback: The Week that was: Pasta with Shin Kyung-sook (Please Look After Mom), Voices of Heaven, Review of Eun Hee-Kyung’s Poor Man’s Wife; and more

  2. Seems like a great class to attend, its sad that it was not recorded.

    I didn’t really love the ‘Where the Harmonium Once Was’ translation, it seems like the author infantilized the book and changed the author intentions in several places. For instance, when the author repeats several phrases (as she does it in every book of her I touched), the translator chose to pick different phrases, losing the repetition effect that was intentional – and not an author mistake. Translating is a difficult task when we think about the author intention, and so far two of the books in this series seems to have missed the point here, achieving a much simpler translation against a much richer original.

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