Sunday, December 04, 2011

Good News from Korea Literature Translation Institute . . .

John O'Brien and Kim Joo-yeon
November 30, 2011

I see from a recent Korea Herald article by Claire Lee, "American to publish Korean literature series in U.S." (November 30, 2011), that John O'Brien, founder of Dalkey Archive Press, has signed an agreement with Kim Joo-yeon, director of the Korea Literature Translation Institute (KLTI), to publish a Korean literature series in English. The plan is to publish 25 in a series simultaneously. That sounds like good news for my wife and me since it opens up the possibilities for publishing one of our translations! But wait . . . what's this? Dalkey Press is looking for a specific sort of literature?
Q: It's been said that you would use the word "subversive" for a one-word description for the kinds of books Dalkey publishes. What's the reason behind this and under what criteria did you select your choices for the upcoming series? What would you say to those who think such "unconventional" works' translations would be harder to market?

A: Years and years ago I was asked in an interview to find one word to describe the books that Dalkey publishes, and the closest I could come to a one-word description was "subversive." What I intended by "subversive" is that a reader is presented with something unpredictable in terms of character, style, and structure. The books that we publish usually make demands on the reader, but demands that I think good readers want from fiction. But yes, these kinds of books, whether translations or books originally written in English, are indeed harder to market, and this is due to the harsh reality that literature in general is harder to market in the United States, partially as a result of the ever-shrinking book-review space in newspapers and magazines. So, this is a challenge for us, and has always been a challenge. Readers look to Dalkey Archive books in order to find fiction that's different and satisfies particular aesthetic needs. The books that we selected for this series are ones that we believe at in keeping with the other books on our list, and it is a very impressive list of major authors from this century and the past one.

Subversive. Hmmm . . . have Sun-Ae and I translated anything subversive? Well, there is Jang Jung-il, but he might be too subversive, maybe even subversive. And he might belong to a different era already.

If you want to learn more about Mr. O'Brian, his literary tastes, and his vision for Dalkey Archive Press, the Los Angeles Times has a same-day, two-part interview in its "Jacket Copy: Books, authors and all things bookish": "John O'Brien of Dalkey Archive Press, Part 1" (July 16, 2009) and "John O'Brien of Dalkey Archive, part 2" (July 16, 2009)

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At 1:59 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

"Readers look to Dalkey Archive books in order to find fiction that's different and satisfies particular aesthetic needs."

Needs? I prefer to read books that satisfy my aesthetic preferences. But anyway.

Perhaps you and Mrs. Hodges might consider publishing with International Authors?

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

Actually, its "Mrs. Hwang," for Korean women keep their own names.

As for publishing . . . well, when we do work for the KLTI, the institute already has publishers to approach, and that's out of our hands.

You might contact the KLTI to express interest, but they would perhaps want to wait and see if IA sticks around.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:24 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Do married women in Korea use a prefix or some linguistic sign?

And whose names do children take?

As for working with other organizations--IA needs to get into grant writing of some kind, and then hire a work study or grad assistant, or maybe two. As it is, I have IA work--three books right now--to keep me busy until August. Another alternative/development would be for other people to take on the role of project Editor. Actually, there are two additional projects developing under the guidance of another editor: so hopefully (keep your fingers crossed) there will be five new titles added to the IA list in 2012.

At 7:18 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I don't think that there's a sign, but Koreans generally refer to individuals in relation to others, e.g., "Sa-Rah's mother," rather than "Hwang Sun-Ae."

The children take the father's surname, but we decided to use "Hwang."

Jeffery Hodges

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