This piece was selected for inclusion in the January 2014 Translation Issue by Daniel Medin, a contributing editor of The White Review. He helps direct the Center for Writers and Translators at the American University of Paris, and is Associate Series Editor of The Cahiers Series
This is actually the first chapter of a longer book that is currently completed in manuscript form and, I suspect, being looked at by potential publishers. The good news is that it is interesting enough on its own basis, and it is free for you to read. In my experience, there is no “bad” translation of Yi Mun-yol, and this proves to be no different. In fact, as I read this opening chapter I found myself happily comparing it to the start of Kim Young-ha’s Photo Shop Murder, with its clear setup and disgruntled cop.
Another version of this translation is also available on Brother Anthony’s hompi, and this is worth checking out if you are interested in decisions of translation, because at the bottom of the translation Brother Anthony spends some time explaining changes that were made. Brother Anthony’s comments apply to the entire work (which is not available on the site) and give a hint of what it takes to get some kinds of translations done:
After consulting with the author, it was decided to eliminate the 335 notes. <….> In many other cases, the information offered seems not to be needed for a full understanding of the novel.
With the author’s agreement, the translators have omitted the text contained on pages 211 – 219, which presents a series of notes on the life of Zoroaster and the main teachings of Zoroastrianism.<….> The same decision was taken by the translators of the French version.
The translators have deliberately sought to maintain the rhythms of the sentence structure of the original, although the resulting sentences are sometimes far longer and more complex than is usual in modern English. <….>
The <….> is where elisions were made for KTLIT, and if you would like to see the entire thing, you should go here, to Brother Anthony’s page.