Translation: discovering ones identity
By Han Sang-hee
Perhaps the best way to enhance one’s translation and interpretation skills is to move abroad and live in a foreign country. Everywhere you go, everyone you meet is speaking in a language different from yours, and unless you are a fluent speaker, your mind has to work quickly and accurately to communicate and this is a small process of translation as a layered task.
For Kim Yoon-kyung, the Grand Prize winner of the 41st Modern Korean Literature Awards in fiction, immigrating to Ireland, has helped her in many ways and as she put it, ``my everyday life is already related with the world of translation.’’
Life as a middle-aged wife can be full of endless chores, but this didn’t leave the 51-year-old Kim from pursuing her own interests and ambitions.
``I was eager to test my ability and also I wanted to find my identity. I hoped to express myself through some creative work like this,’’ she said.
``Spring Afternoon: Three Widows’’ is a story about three women in their eighties. Old and fragile they may be, but their hearts and friendships remain the same, quarreling over the same small incidents, hurting each other’s feelings and then realizing the importance of one another’s presence all over again.
``It (was) fresh and different. The women are from the same generation as my mother, so I could empathize with them,’’ Kim said.
Kim worked as a literature and philosophy lecturer at a university in Korea before moving to Ireland.
As an avid reader from a young age, she read a lot of Korean historical stories and often told her classmates of the stories she read.
``The special characteristic of Korean literature is due to the special Korean history and culture. In the 20th century Korea experienced turbulent periods: colonization, division of the territory, Civil war, Cold war, life under dictatorship, and very rapid economic development,’’ Kim said.
``Korean writers seem to face the reality without any hesitation. The author, Jeong Ji-ah is not an exception. She brings in all the historical events to the background of the piece.’’
Fellow translator Brendan MacHale also noticed the colorful historical backdrop that ultimately affected all the characters in the story.
``I liked Jeong Ji-ah’s story, especially the quality and depth of its feeling and the engaging interaction of its three principal characters,’’ he said.
Kim offered some tips on becoming a good translator ― be simple, yet straight to the point ― plus she mentioned the need for more translated Korean works.
``It is essential to have a thorough understanding of the work that is to be translated and be familiar with both languages that are to be used. One has to read many books and also have various experiences. When translating a literary work, I think it is most important to deliver the intention of the author and the atmosphere of the work itself,’’ she said.
``(Along with translated works,) cultural events in foreign countries to introduce prominent Korean authors are needed too. The more people know about Korea, the more chances we have to see a Korean author winning a Nobel Prize in literature!’’