What first short stories smuggled out of North Korea say about life in the hermit state, and their challenges for a translator

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It’s not reportage but fiction, written not by a defector but by a writer still living and working in North Korea – the necessarily pseudonymous Bandi. The Accusation is a first for publishing, and also a first for me. As a translator I’ve specialised in fiction, and other books I’ve worked on have been political in their aims and impact – most notably Han Kang’s Human Acts, which focuses on the 1980 Gwangju massacre. But none have had such an obviously polemical intent as The Accusation.

Whenever we translate from a language or literature not yet widely represented in English, the danger is that what was intended as art will be reduced to anthropology. With a country as little known as North Korea, the sociological reading will be impossible to ignore, though the fact of The Accusation’s historicity can at least encourage a broader view: the seven stories that make up the collection are dated from 1989 to 1993, in the last years of Kim Il-sung’s rule. Read more

Source: South China Morning Post

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