Monday, June 16, 2014

Charles La Shure on Yi Kwang-su's novel The Soil

Professor Charles La Shure
Department of Korean Language and Literature
Seoul National University

An acquaintance of mine, Charles La Shure, has written a review of the LTI Korea translation project, "Korean Literature Series for English-speaking Readers" ("Library of Korean Literature," Volumes 1-10, various authors, Dalkey Archive Press, 2013), for the quarterly Koreana (Spring 2014) that mentions Yi Kwang-su's novel The Soil:
The first stage in this project is already complete, with 10 books published in November 2013; the remainder are scheduled to be published in fall this year. The series begins, at least chronologically, with a work that is often considered to be the first modern Korean novel, Yi Kwang-su's "The Soil." First serialized in a daily newspaper in 1932, the novel follows a social activist who attempts to enlighten the farming village in which he was born, bringing those who live there into the modern era. It paints a vivid picture of the social conditions in Korea during the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945), which led World Literature Today to include the work in its list of 75 Notable Translations of 2013.
I think Charles meant to say that The Soil is "considered to be [one of] the first modern Korean novel[s]," the consensus among Korean literary critics being that Yi Kwang-su's earlier novel Heartless is actually the first modern Korean novel.

No word on the quality of the translation, so I suppose that means Charles didn't hate it . . .

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At 9:29 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

You can see Charles in action here . Around Minute 4, he talks about how, on a procedural drama like "CSI," the characters call each other by name while the Korean subtitles have the characters addressing each other by rank or title. I didn't watch the whole video; most of it was over my head. But it seemed interesting.

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Charles said...

Yes, you're right that I meant to say "one of the first modern Korean novels." Something got screwed up along the way and I never caught it. I discovered it when I read the review later and was quite mortified. (Also a bit annoyed to see the title in quotes rather than italics....)

Since this review was a review of the entire series, I didn't have time to go into too much detail. You will (hopefully) be pleased to know that the next issue of Koreana will contain a review that focuses entirely on the novel. Short version: I did not hate it. :D (I also made sure that the review said "one of the first" this time.)

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Kevin, and thanks Charles!

Jeffery Hodges

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