2011 in Korean Translated Literature: The Year in Review
• First, as the year began, Korea lost one of its great authors, and one well represented in translation, Park Wan-so. An international literary treasure as well a national one, Park’s literary career spanned thirty years, and she wrote more than 20 novels and 100 short stories, a fair proportion of which were translated into English. Perhaps her most famous work was Who Ate Up All the Shinga, a semi-autobiographical novel of growing up in and after the Korean civil war.
• The year continued on a not-so great note as KTLIT noted that the Asian Man Literary prize did not include any Korean candidates, and that in fact, most prizes for translation seemed unaware of Korean works.
• Kim Young-ha, one of the most successful Korean writers in English translation, weighed in on the death of 0f aspiring screenwriter Choi Go-eun (a friend of Kim’s), and ended up quitting Twitter and blogging after a series of online debates with literary critic Cho Young-il. Fortunately, by the end of this year he had at least returned to podcasting, and the news that a translation of his “Black Flower”
• Even better news came in the first quarter of the year when Shin Kyung-sook’s Please Look After Mom, took the English speaking world by storm, hitting the New York Times Top 10 List, making Amazon’s 10 Best Books of the Year list, being published in the United States and Europe, and selling more copies than any other Korean translation ever had. Even better, as Shin’s work rose to the top of the bestseller list, it demonstrably dragged other Korean translations with it, as their popularity rose markedly on Amazon.
• In publication, special mention should be made of the excellent feminist collection of modern fiction by female Korean authors, Questioning Minds. The book was technically published on the last day of 2010, but its sales took place this year.
• Renowned author Yi Mun-yol (and translator Heinz Fenkl) also scored a triumph when An Anonymous Island was published in the New Yorker Magazine.
• LTI Korea, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a conference intended to help lay the groundwork for another successful decade.
• The year continued with a bit of silliness as some members of the GNP called for investigation of author Gong Ji-young for her book The Crucible (later made into a movie and released in the US). The GNP might well dislike Gong, whose politics are extreeeemely left, as her dressing down of protestors celebrating the death of Kim Jong-il demonstrated (Tip of the Hat to “Hidden Connections” for turning this up).
• The year ended with splendid news, as LTI Korea and the Dalkey Archive announced that they were partnering to translate 25 Korean books, which will be released (I think) in 2013.
All in all, a year with more good in it than bad, and it makes me look forward to what the current year will reveal!