Tag Archives: korean fiction

If I Could Turn Back Time…

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No, it would not be to recreate a Cher song. Or maybe it would. I’m not sure at this point because I have the stupid thing playing on a loop in my head right now.

Writing for futurism.com, Chelsea Gohd published a piece called “We Can’t Alter The Flow of Time But, According to Physics, We Can Bend It” a few days ago, and I lapped up every word.

We’ve all considered the notion of time travel at one point in our lives. Don’t deny it. Ever since that excellent! film (not movie) Back to the Future II, when Biff steals a sports almanac and goes back in time to make himself crazy rich, we’ve all entertained notions of joining the Biffs of the world.

As far as I understand – and with much of what I learned at M.I.T. relegated to the depths of the Mariana Trench – Einstein conceived of travelling forward in time (assuming we could reach the speed of light), but never back in time. He did leave open one possibility that even he could only speculate about: wormholes.

Although I’m generally apathetic when it comes to sci-fi literature and movies, I’ve been thinking a lot about the space-time continuum lately because of a Korean novel I’m helping to translate, author Kim Hee-sun’s The Multiverses of Infinity (무한의 책).

It goes without saying that I’m ecstatic to be part of a project I truly believe in and helping breathe life into it for English readers one day. (Think Kafka meets Murakami Haruki in a dark Prague alley, somehow the two speak the same language, and after a quick meet-and-greet of sorts, they decide to stroll off together to a Harajuku jazz club, where they will discuss beautifully shaped ears and huge insects.) And since the plot of Multiverses involves a character going back in time, it’s got me thinking.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the central driving force for this character to go back in time is to help someone, not hurt them, and not to benefit in any selfish way like our friend Biff. If we as human beings ever do come up with a way to travel through time, I can’t help but wonder what our motivation would be.

Anyway, Ms. Gohd’s article on space-time is nothing short of fascinating and illuminating. And to quote Gohd quoting Stephen Hawking at the end, “Even if it turns out that time travel is impossible, it is important that we understand why it is impossible.”

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The Psychogeography of Grief

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Writing for The Guardian, Deborah Levy has some very nice things to say about the new book on the cusp of international release in English from the award-winning author of The Vegetarian in a piece titled “The White Book by Han Kang review – the fragility of life.”

Han Kang is the South Korean author who shot to worldwide literary fame when her book about a non-meat eater won the Man Booker International Prize in 2016. It also earned its translator, @londonkoreanist (aka Deborah Smith), heaps and heaps of praise for her artistic and articulate translation.

As Ms. Levy contends, Han Kang has maintained her poise as a skilled, humanistic author in The White Book (“흰” in Korean) – a “fragmented autobiographical meditation on the death of the unnamed narrator’s baby sister, who died two hours after her birth” – through “writing [that] edges close to becoming a brilliant psychogeography of grief, moving as it does between place, history and memory.”

For her own part, Deborah Smith has kept up with what is purported to be another excellent translation, like this poignant excerpt from The White Book:

“I wanted to show you clean things. Before brutality, sadness, despair, filth, pain, clean things that were only for you, clean things above all. But it didn’t come off as I intended. Again and again I peered into your eyes, as though searching for form in a deep, black mirror.”

The review ends by saying “If Han’s monotone is relentlessly poised and never flinches from serene dignity, perhaps it could not be written in any other way…The White Book is a mysterious text, perhaps in part a secular prayer book…[that] succeeds in reflecting Han’s urgent desire to transcend pain with language.

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‘The Vegetarian’ Wins the Man Booker International Prize

It’s official. Han Gang’s The Vegetarian has become the first Korean novel to win the Man Booker International Prize, arguably the most prestigious award for an English literary translation in the world, and worth a cool $72,000, which Han will split with her 28-year-old translator, Deborah Smith.

Congratulations to Ms. Han and Ms. Smith

 

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