Park Wan-suh Interview: Missing Paragraph 'Restored'
In looking again at the online interview with the author Park Wan-suh by Shin Junebong for the autumn 2009 issue of the quarterly journal -list: Books from Korea, which is published by LTI Korea, I noticed that the final paragraph is missing due to some sort of glitch reproducing part of the interview's penultimate paragraph (and immmediately prior to the biographical information titled "About Park Wansuh"). I therefore offer the 'ultimate' paragraph of the interview here, 'painstakingly' typed from the hardcopy by Gypsy Scholar, for the benefit of interested readers:
When asked which of her works have been introduced to overseas readers, Park said, "I think it's very difficult to understand the literature of a country without having an understanding of its history." As an example, she told of how even in the case of Japan, a country extremely close to Korea in terms of culture and history, it is difficult for her works to be accurately translated into Japanese. "When the prose of my fiction is translated into a foreign language, the particular flavor of the words seems to be lost," she continued. In which case, it seems that complete understanding and appreciation of Park's works by foreign readers can only be possible in one of the following two ways: either such readers must acquire by themselves a broader understanding of Korea's history and culture; or a "perfect translation," like that described by Walter Benjamin, where a work's vital poetic features, down to its most mystical elements, are transferred intact, must be produced. Neither of these can be achieved in a short period of time. (page 31)The English translation of Who Ate Up All the Shinga?, by Yu Young-nan and Stephen J. Epstein, may not be a 'perfect' translation of the sort required by Benjamin, but it comes rather close enough in our less-than-perfect world . . . at least for a reader like me. But that's in part the case because I'm one of those readers who has acquired a somewhat "broader understanding of Korea's history and culture," though mostly secondhand since I know very little Korean.
And unlike many Americans, the Korean War was for me not 'the forgotten war' because I grew up hearing about it. My Uncle Leon Ferguson served in the army during the Korean War -- as a conscripted infantryman if I recall, but he wouldn't talk about his experiences. My eighth grade science teacher, Mr. Coy Ferguson, also served -- and told a few stories of the hardship. My Boy Scout leader, Mr. Albert Holland, served as well -- as a sergeant with even more stories of the suffering.
I therefore cannot read passages about the Korean War in Park Wan-suh's Shinga book without thinking, "Uncle Leon, Mr. Ferguson, and Mr. Holland were all there, too, and probably passed through Seoul while Park Wan-suh was struggling at day-to-day survival."
Maybe that's in part what makes the book so fascinating for me to read.
UPDATE: I contacted LTI Korea, and they have now corrected the glitch that had lost the final paragraph.