Monday, September 01, 2014

Brother Anthony: Ready to ruffle feathers with remarks about Korean fiction?

Brother Anthony
Korea Herald

I've known Brother Anthony for more than ten years, though I can't say I know him well. He's an old-timer, an expat from Cornwall, UK, who's been here since 1980 and taught English literature for many years until his retirement in 2007. He has also worked as a translator, specializing in Korean poetry, Kim Hoo-ran tells us in "This is where my life is" (Korea Herald, August 29, 2014):
Brother Anthony, who has published 30 books of English translations of Korean poetry and fiction, embarked on translating Korean poetry in 1988. When he told a colleague that he would like to translate Korean poetry, he was introduced to the poet Ku Sang, whose works he has extensively translated. Brother Anthony is also well known for translating poems by Seo Jeong-ju and Ko Un, the perennial Korean favorite for a Nobel literature prize.
Brother Anthony therefore can speak with some familiarity concerning Korean literature, and about works of Korean fiction, he says:
They are not interesting.
Prodded by Kim Hoo-ran:
He offers a broad critique of Korean fiction writers today. "The way Korean fiction writers write does not conform to the world trend," he says. One reason for this may be that very few works of literature in foreign languages are available in Korean translations, he observes.

"In the outside world, fictions are entertaining," he continues. "They engage the reader with multiple points of view, ambiguity." On the other hand, "Korean readers are not accustomed to anything more than what you get on television soaps," he says.
I think Brother Anthony is being provocative, pushing a bit, maybe to rile writers into writing more interesting stories. He knows more than I do, but I can't agree with him entirely, for I read a very interesting book by Park Won-suh, Who Ate Up All The Singa, among other interesting books by other Korean writers. But, as I said, he knows more than I do, so his observation has more credibility than mine.

I'll be interested to see the reaction to his remarks.

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