Jeong Ji A: "Light of Spring"
One of the earlier translations from Korean into English that my wife Sun-Ae and I did of a Korean short story has appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of Koreana: Korean Art and Culture (Vol. 24, No. 1). The story is "Light of Spring," by Jeong Ji A, and the text was somewhat difficult for us to deal with because it was in dialect, so our first effort was overworked into a 'rural' American dialect that didn't really fit. We reworked it after advice and improved it some, but it still has flaws, all my own fault because my job was to make the English work to a literary effect, so don't blame the author, Jeong Ji A, or the translator, Sun-Ae Hwang. Blame solely Horace Jeffery Hodges, and since you need a sample in order to do any blaming, here's the opening paragraph:
Father was smoking a cigarette as he sat in a comfortable squat by the forsythia hedge, its branches lavish with dazzling yellow blossoms, when the car pulled up. He did not in any way resemble an educated intellectual, the proper schoolteacher that he had actually been, despite the fact that, out here in the countryside where people rarely do, he was dressed formally in the exact same navy blue suit that the son remembered having worn on his first day of work at his first job, and which mother had retrieved some time later on one of her visits to see him in Seoul, saying she might find a use for it as work clothes or something. Father was now just one of the old country folk. Stopping the car a few meters away, the son turned off the engine. Father blew out a puff of cigarette smoke and watched as it dispersed in the warm spring air. The space around Father seemed somber, as if proximity to death gave his body the power to absorb the forsythia's bright yellow hues and even the dispersed cigarette smoke. Father showed no sign of noticing the car parked close by or that a pair of eyes was watching him intently. For some years already, he had been so deaf that turning the television up to its maximum volume had been necessary. (Jeong Ji A, "Light of Spring," Koreana, Spring 2010, page 92)My stylistic insufficiencies are obvious for all to see. I'm dissatisfied with the very first sentence and would now rework it at least to read:
When the car pulled up, Father was smoking a cigarette and squatting comfortably by the forsythia hedge, its branches lavish with dazzling yellow blossoms.I think that works a bit better, but it still needs more reworking. So does the second sentence, which I'd now perhaps rework as follows:
In no way did he look well educated, the proper schoolteacher of years ago, despite being dressed in a formal suit, unlike most country folk. The suit was the same navy blue one the son remembered wearing the initial day of his first job. His mother had later taken it with her after a visit to Seoul, saying it might be of use as work clothes or the like.I'd want to keep tinkering with this sentence until the words run along smoothly -- and I might as well try to fix the rest of the paragraph:
Father was now just one of the old country folk. Stopping the car a few meters away, the son turned off the engine. Father sharply exhaled a puff of cigarette smoke and watched it disperse in the warm spring air. The space around him appeared somber, as if proximity to death had altered his body, making it absorb the forsythia's bright yellow hues, and even the dispersing cigarette smoke. Father revealed no awareness of the car close by or the eyes intent upon him. For some years, he had already been so hard of hearing that a television on full volume was necessary.I think that these changes show improvement. It'll never be perfect, but in the light of this year's incipient spring, it looks better.
Readers may have other opinions . . . as might my wife.