The Fultons Translate Hwang Sunwon’s Lost Souls: Stories

Lost Souls

An article from the Book Section of the Seattle Times on the tireless Fultons ^^ and their latest project “Lost Souls: Stories” by Hwang Sunwon (Columbia University Press). When I first saw the title and author, I was a little bit pessimistic, since Hwang is one of the oldest (in fact now long dead) of the modern Korean writers, and the title sounded as though the volume might focus on monochromatic tales of woe. And when the article ambiguously quoted Fulton:

Korean writers are expected to be “cognizant of the modern tragedy of Korean history,” Bruce says. “Until recently, if you wrote out of imagination, with a sense of humor or playfulness, you were considered a lightweight, not to be taken seriously.”

Delicate Californian Sand

I was tempted to focus on the “history” part of the quote, not the humor or playfulness. But then I did some Romanization-translation in my head and realized this was the author who had written Cranes, which is one of those stories that manages to be deeply meaningful to Koreans and to English readers (Unlike, say, Buckwheat Season). Coincidentally, I also have Modern Korean Fiction An Anthology at my side, so I quickly read Coarse Sand, which was also a story that seems likely to affect Koreans and has an absolutely brutal ending that works extremely well in English (culture) translation.

Also, in Modern Korean Fiction An Anthology Fulton and Kwon (the translators) say about Hwang:

His command of dialect, his facility with both rural and urban settings, his variety of narrative techniques, his vivid artistic imagination, his spectacularly diverse constellation of characters, and his insights into human personality make Hwang at once a complete writer and one who is almost impossible to categorize.

That’s the kind of rave I like to hear, so I’ll be off to the bookstores this weekend to see if  Lost Souls: Stories is in stock.

Tomorrow, however, I think I will have to make some harsh judgments on Modern Korean Fiction An Anthology.

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