Dont do it unless you truly love it, says winner
By Han Sang-hee
For Jamie Chang, the Commendation Award winner of the 41st Modern Korean Literature Translation Awards contest for fiction, entering the local competition was a coincidence, as she discovered it by chance, reading about it in a biography.
Since the contest does not require nominations or illustrious translating careers from applicants, she went for it and triumphantly won an award.
The graduate from Tufts University, and also a candidate for a master’s degree at Harvard University, has been working as a freelance translator for the past three years, and her résumé is indeed impressive.
She received a translation grant from the Korea Literature Translation Institute in 2008 for translating Kim Ae-ran’s ``The Mouth Waters’’ and also worked on various projects, including documentaries, films, photography and texts, and epic novels.
Among the various modern Korean works, why did she choose to translate ``The Wizard Bakery?’’
``I was drawn to the oddly precocious narrator of `The Wizard Bakery,’’’ she said in an email interview with The Korea Times.
``The subject matter made it a painful read, but the bakery and Koo Byung-mo’s incredibly witty lines balanced things out nicely for me,’’ she said.
``The Wizard Bakery’’ depicts the uncanny life of a young stuttering boy. He lives with his father, stepmother and stepsister after his biological mother passes away, but when he is accused of sexually harassing his stepsister, he moves out and starts living in a mysterious bakery called the Wizard Bakery. The boy learns secrets from the bakery, and later has to make a choice whether he will use magic to change his past, present or future.
Thanks to its witty writing, unique structure and eerie vibe, the book was voted as one of the most read novels in top universities, including Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University.
``Good translators are good writers. Good translators fuss over details. I was lucky the narrative style of the author matched my own. My advice would be to stick to the authors you can relate to, or read copiously and develop a wide range of styles. It may sound difficult, but it’s so much easier than being a writer,’’ she said.
Chang, whose favorite authors are Margaret Atwood, Jorge Luis Borges and John Irving.
``Korean literature is no more or less special than literature from other countries, but the demand for it may rise with growing interest in world literature and increasing number of the Korean studies departments in foreign universities,’’ she added.
When asked if she could give any advice to aspiring translators and those who are preparing for next year’s competition, Chang said that people shouldn’t do it unless they truly love it and can think of nothing else they would rather do.
``There’s something wonderfully masochistic and gratifying about translating under full knowledge that the moment one thing is said in another language, the original is warped, ruined, or transformed,’’ she said, adding that she hopes to continue her journey by translating more in the future.