Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who ate up all the . . .

Tongue: A Novel
Jo Kyung-Ran
(Image from Amazon)

Some readers will recall that I posted a blog entry last week on the process of translating, drawing attention to Kim Chi-young's views on the experience. I wasn't the only expat interested in this translator of Shin Kyung-sook's novel, Please Look After Mom. Robert Koehler also blogged about Kim Chi-young and Shin Kyung-sook, as well about as the novel, which he notes hasn't garnered universally positive critical reviews in the States . . . despite -- or because of? -- Oprah Winfrey's recommendation. Anyway, Robert called attention to an interview with Kim Chi-young on the blog subject-object-verb, in which she remarks:
I had the most interactive experience doing Please Look After Mom. The editor would ask questions and make suggestions, and I would answer what I could and ask the author to clarify, or if she could add more or delete, depending on the editor's suggestion. Then, the author would weigh in with her ideas and preferences, which I then conveyed to the editor. So it was truly a collaborative project.
One Korean-American with a bit of translating experience of his own took issue with this remark:
In her interview, Chi-young Kim completely understates how difficult it is to translate Korean into English. Having worked as a copy editor in Korea for numerous English-language communications firms and Korean-based English-language media outlets, translating Korean into English is actually NOT a collaborative process at all, as she alleges, but rather the domain of native English-speaking copy editors who have the skill of a good editor with some knowledge of Korean in order to fill in the Korean cultural blanks and smooth over Korean linguistic and grammatical quirks to make the topsy turvy world of Korean-to-Konglish translations comprehensible to an English-speaking public.
I guess that these two have had very different experiences translating Korean into English, though Kim Chi-young's description of the translation process doesn't make it sound easy to me. Be that as it may, one American expat with expertise in Korean literature, Charles Montgomery, objected to this apparent criticism directed at Kim Chi-young:
[N]ot only does Young collaborate with her editors, but her ability in Korean allows her to collaborate with the authors (to this point she has only worked with living authors) . . . . But the fact is that if you look at the most successful translations from Korean to English [what do you find]? She is responsible for the last three, and maybe the last five: Lee Dong-ha's "A Toy City"; Park Wan-suh's "Who Ate up All the Shinga"; Kim Young-ha's "I Have the Right to Destroy Myself", Kim Young-ha's "Your Republic is Calling You" and, Shin Kyung-sook's "Please Look After Mom."
I was surprised that Charles included Park Wan-suh's novel Who Are Up All the Shinga among Kim Chi-Young's translations, so I commented:
Charles, . . . Yu Young-nan and Stephen Epstein translated Who Ate up All the Shinga. Did Yu Young-nan's daughter, Kim Chi-young, assist her mother with that? I proofread the penultimate copy of the novel and offered my editorial comments, but I heard nothing about Kim Chi-young being involved.
Charles immediately backpedaled:
LOL. I meant Kyung Ran Jo's Tongue. I'm not sure how I got to Shinga!
I've also read Tongue, which -- spoiler alert! -- is the story of a gourmet cook who loses her lover to a beautiful model and her mind to a terrible insanity, so she drugs the model unconscious, cuts out the poor woman's tongue, and serves it gourmet-style to the ex-lover, who eats it unaware of the horror. With that story in mind, I replied:
Maybe you confused it with Who Ate Up All The Chingu?
The word chingu -- which I substituted for the edible plant shinga -- means "friend," and I considered that a pretty clever pun since the ex-lover in Tongue ate the model unawares . . . or at least part of her. A couple of other commentors liked my wordplay as well. Cactus McHarris wrote:
Jeffery, it's official -- you are funny. That last one made me nearly spray the screen with Chinese Gunpowder tea.
And long-time commentor Wedge chimed in:
BTW -- Prof. Hodges is cracking me up here, as usual.
I had little idea that my humor was effective, so I'm pleased to discover that I have an appreciative audience.

But maybe they're the only two, since nobody else reacted with a comment . . .

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