Saturday, May 26, 2007

Park Wan-suh: Who Ate Up All Those Singa?

Park Wan-suh
(Photo from Korea Image)

"Or is it Park Wan-seo?" I wondered, when I read this name in a JoongAng Daily article, "A mother writes about loss" (Park Soo-mee, May 19, 2007), which also translated the novel's title differently:
"Who Ate Up the Singa" is another autobiographical novel based on the author's wartime memories and is set in the ruined city of Seoul.
I was wondering about this because using the romanization's correct form -- I mean 'correct' according to Park's own spelling -- would be essential for the translation that I had been asked to proofread and review.

Yes, oddly enough, I was solicited as the reviewer of a recent translation still at the manuscript stage. I'm not sure why the translation institute chose me, possibly because of the translating work that I've done with my wife or perhaps because of the editing that I've done for other Korean scholars, but somehow, I came to their attention.

Anyway, I had in mind this question about the correct spelling for the author's name, so when one of my colleagues at Kyung Hee University invited me to a lecture by this same writer, I readily agreed despite my poor Korean.

The talk took place on May 23 and must have been very entertaining because Park often had her audience laughing. I understood a few words, thereby managing to piece some things together and to imagine some other things -- mostly from my having read the Singa novel.

At the talk's end, a number of scholars attending were asked to stand up and draw slips of paper from a box in a lottery for lucky students (among the very many present) to receive signed copies of Park's books. Even I was asked to perform this minor task and to my surprise was introduced as the scholar reviewing a translated manuscript of the Singa book. I hardly deserved any honor for that, but the students oohed and aahed anyway.

I wish that the real translators had been present, for those two deserved that recognition. I'd name them here, for the minor recognition that my blog might confer, but I don't have authorization to do so. They are, however, well known in the field, and their translation of this wonderful novel is magnificent.

After the lottery, I asked and learned that the author spells her name precisely as the translators had rendered it: Park Wan-suh.



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