Novelist Han Kang winning the Man Booker International Prize last month with “The Vegetarian” highlighted the importance of translation. Experts say that British translator Deborah Smith equally deserves credit for the honor.
Jung Ha-yun, professor of translation studies at Ewha Womans University, said literary translation is a complicated art, a walk on a tightrope, as it were, requiring both linguistic precision and aesthetic perspective.
“The situation is even trickier when it comes to Korean literature, which is underrepresented and viewed as unknown and unfamiliar on the world literature scene,” Jung said. “There is great pressure on translators, especially within trade publishing, to render familiar a literary tradition based on a language and a culture that is very distant from Western languages, cultures and literature.”