Translation into French (Team wins Daesan Literary Award)

Good article on a team that translates Korean literature into French.

On Friday, Choe and Bellemin-Nol jointly received the 18th Daesan Literary Award for their latest collaborative Korean-French translation work, “Interdit de Folie (Wanting to Go Insane, Yet Unable),” a full-length novel by Korean author Yi In-seong. An extremely experimental literary work, the original text tells the story of a severely traumatized Korean man in the 1980s who suffers from painful personal memories to a degree that he’d rather lose his sanity.

That story ((미쳐버리고 싶은, 미쳐지지 않는) in Korean) sounds pretty good^^ and I look forward to seeing it translated into English.

Part of the reason I find this interesting is the process that these two use sounds somewhat similar to the process that Bruce and Ju-chan Fulton use (You can hear this in the interview I did with Professor Fulton a few months ago):

First, Choe translates the entire Korean text to French, with a long list of footnotes that contain explanations of cultural context, synonyms of major words, and alternative ways of interpreting the text. Bellemin-Nol then revises the first draft and rewrites the text into more refined French, taking Choe’s footnotes into consideration. Then the “talk” begins. “From this stage we wouldn’t use my first translated draft at all,” Choe said. “We’d discuss extensively comparing the original Korean text and the second translated version which has been revised by Dr. Bellemin-Nol, for the final copy that would compromise the two drafts.”

This has also been picked up by the irredoutable Gypsy Scholar who compares his own style to that of the French team:

my wife Sun-Ae and I work through in our own translation efforts. Moreover, according to Christine Lee, “Bellemin-Noël has almost no knowledge of the Korean language,” which I find quite heartening, personally, since I’m in the same position of ignorance. Anyway, our process is somewhat different. Sun-Ae has a doctorate in German literature but translates into serviceable English that gets better with each passing year. I rework her translation, trying to reword it with an ear to literary quality in English. Sun-Ae then reads my reworked version, checking for mistakes of understanding on my part, which she and I then discuss. Afterwards, I re-read the text carefully, listening for awkward expressions, which I rework. Sun-Ae re-reads after that, checking again that the translation remain true to the original Korean, and we discuss any difficulties.

What strikes me as a significant difference between our method and theirs is the degree of informality to ours. I think that ours is less formal because we’re a married couple and work five feet apart at desks facing one another, an arrangement that allows us to query each other any time either of us encounters a translation problem.

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