Sunday, November 17, 2013

Korean-Lit Wave Beckons to America

Craig Fehrman

The LTI Korea is making waves . . . Korea Waves:
The Library of Korean Literature's first ten titles appear this November, with the rest arriving next year. Already, the initial batch offers that bird's-eye view. A Western reader can start with The Soil, [a] . . . novel by Yi Kwang-su first published as a serial in 1932. But there's also When Adam Opens His Eyes (1990), the Jang Jung-il novel that stirred up a scandal with its explicit descriptions of straight and gay sex. (Craig Fehrman, "Korean Lit Comes to America," The American Prospect, November 13, 2013)
Both were translated by my wife and me, so nothing new there, but Fehrman's synopsis of Yi Kwang-su major novel, The Heartless, was new . . . and yet familiar:
Under Japanese rule, . . . Korea's writers turned to novels and short stories, with Yi Kwang-su's The Heartless (1917) generally seen as the key book. It's a bit like Robinson Crusoe in this respect -- tough to pin down as the earliest but easy to see as a turning point. Yi belonged to a wave of thinkers and writers who'd watched their country collapse. Now they wanted to embrace Western ideas like educational reform and marrying for love.

The Heartless dramatizes those ideas through a love triangle between a representative Korean man, a traditional woman, and a more Westernized woman. In other words, it barely dramatizes them at all, with Yi prioritizing his causes over his characters and imagery. The writers who followed chose new causes -- some calling for further change, others lamenting what had been lost -- but they joined Yi in producing a largely didactic body of literature.
Much the same summary could also have been written of The Soil. Fehrman doesn't say what he thinks about the translation result of The Soil and When Adam Opens His Eyes, but he at least says nothing disparaging.

For the rest of the article, which has some intriguing observations deserving of discussion, follow the link!

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At 9:51 AM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

"The LTI Korea is making waves . . . Korea Waves"

Not even a ripple in my book loving pond. I even had to Google the source as I'd never heard of it.

South Korean cabals out to put their methodologies behind turning out the next "Potter", "Hunger Games" or "Twilight" authoress if they actually want to make a huge wave in the states. You would think in a country as big on copying what works for others (business successes), that South Korea could get it done as easily as they have with cars and technology. Hell, even the copy-cat North has had great success emulating the currency of the U.S.
which this well-known U.S. magazine goes into great detail in describing. The Juche North even calls them "superdollars" and not superwon.

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The problem as I see it is that a writer isn't considered as a writer in Korea without being officially recognized as one. Unless one debuts as the winner of a literary prize, one isn't a 'true' writer. That makes for a smaller pool of creative writers and a reluctance to explore various genres.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Charles Montgomery said...

And when you add in the "black box" nature of how the prize winners are determined? The process is on the verge of insane...

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've been inside that black box for judging translation grant applications, and the views of Korean and Western judges often diverge.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:42 PM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

"The problem as I see it is that a writer isn't considered as a writer in Korea without being officially recognized as one."

I'm willing to lay down serious money that that wouldn't be the case if a South Korean writer broke out into the mainstream West like Psy did with music.

The Southern peninsula would be shouting to all who would listen about "their" very own Rowling, King, Meyer, Collins, Steele, Stine, Crichton or Patterson.

Here's the real kicker that the powers that be in this Korean movement don't seem to get. Most of humanity would be hard pressed to name any of those "literary Nobels," while a sizable portion have read, or seen, the works of King, Crichton and Rowling.

Unless you are in the biz, the world could care less about Nobels as those that do still read for pure enjoyment are too busy reading books that were recommended to them by the likes of "People," Entertainment Weekly," and Oprah.

The future ought to be really interesting as most young people aren't all that into reading for pleasure as they are into gaming. Even films are falling by the wayside as gaming becomes the biggest ticket in entertainment. These days, Dan Houser is hands down the greatest writer in the world, and he has no Nobles to his name--only a gaming franchise that made $1,000,000,000.00 in just three days for its latest installment. For comparison purposes, brilliant writer/director, Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" blockbuster film took 19 days to pull in those numbers. In the end, "The Avengers" topped out at $1.5 billion while Houser's GTA5 is looking at going well over the $5 billion mark after this year's holiday sales are rung up. Not bad for an English writer without a Nobel. Instead, he has a legion of rabid followers eagerly awaiting his next release with billions more to spend on what Nobel elitists classify as mere drivel.

In the end, this big money being made as bread and circuses for the masses will be what brings South Korean authors into the worldwide mainstream consciousness.

At 3:23 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, John, for the details on writers and gaming -- it's a trend I've noticed but haven't read much about. I think I saw part of a video on YouTube about it, something on the Creators' Project, if I recall. Writers working with software experts . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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