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Articles tagged "Korean Literature"

Writing Outside the Mainstream: An Interview with Jeon Sam-hye

Image: Anton Hur and Jeon Sam-hye at Seoul Pride, 2016. Anton Hur’s translaton of Jeon Sam-hye’s story “Genesis” appears in the June 2016 issue of Words without Borders: “The Queer Issue VII.” Anton Hur (AH): How did you come to write “Genesis”? Jeon Sam-hye (JSH): To be honest, this story ended up making trouble for a lot of people. “Genesis” was not a queer narrative to begin with. It started off with the idea that because...

From the Translator: A Lunar Sorority

Image: Phases of the Moon. (CC0 Public Domain.) Anton Hur’s translation of Jeon Sam-hye’s “Genesis” appears in the June 2016 issue of Words without Borders: “The Queer Issue VII.” Insofar as a translator can be “well-known,” I am not the most well-known gay translator of Korean literature. I am not even the second most well-known, or the third. In fact, one of my sisters-at-arms, Jamie Chang, already contributed a “From the...

Kim Yideum’s “Cheer Up, Femme Fatale” & Oh Sae-young’s “Night-Sky Checkerboard”

While reading these two collections, I couldn’t get LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” out of my head. Like James Murphy’s “kids coming up from behind,” Kim Yideum is a brash, no holds barred poet, unafraid of sensitive topics, though with a poet’s healthy self-doubt. Oh Sae-young, on the other hand, is an older poet whose generation came of age during the depredations of Korean partition and matured under the fractured and...

Wizard Bakery

The Devil’s Cinnamon Cookies. 2 per serving. 9000 won. Ingredients: flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, raisins, and a secret extract. The essence of the extract will not be revealed, as certain ingredients may be found revolting. (Baker’s note: Extract contains no known allergens, so not to worry. Besides, you’re not going to eat it yourself!) Product Details: Give the cookie to someone you don’t like. The cookie will mentally incapacitate the recipient for an average...

From the Translator: Han Yujoo’s “Lament”: Writing Through the Blank Page

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If you’re Han Yujoo and life gives you writer’s block, you write about it and create something beautiful in the process. Let me begin by clarifying: I’m a translator, and I’m also a writer. Or, as I like to say, I’m a translator by day and a writer by night. But who am I kidding? By night, I’m often too tired to write. Which doesn’t mean I don’t try, circling as I do the wasteland of my personal...

From the Translator: Totalitarian Capitalism in a Windowless Room

In the winter of 2007, I ditched my plans to go to medical school and chose Mouthwatering by Kim Aeran as my first translation project. Like all derailing decisions I’ve made in my life that in time proved sound, a woman was behind it. Her name was Saein. She wanted to be a poet. Before I met her, the Korean section of my personal library consisted of just two names: Wan-suh Park (author of Who Ate Up All the Shinga?) and Lee Yeongdo (a big name in Korean fantasy fiction; my life...

Notes on Writing and Translating in Korea Today

With Korea being this year’s Market Focus at the London Book Fair, there was a multitude of events exploring the publishing potential around this country, revealing a whole universe of literature to be read, and of course, translated. The “Writing and Translating in Korea Today” seminar at the Literary Translation Centre gave a succinct overview of the Korean literary landscape. The panelists were all translators as well as authors. Krys Lee, author of Drifting House, was...

Say Ah, Pelican

Boat People Yawn. Yawning always makes me sleepy. There are still two boats out on the water, but I lie down anyway. There’d be trouble if the boss saw me. It would be so great if the polar ice caps melted right now. No one would care about a ticket-taker asleep at an amusement park if there were a flood, would they? Slowly melting, melting . . . so tired. I lie down and close my eyes like a dying rat. I’m a rat. Dying. Four o’clock in the afternoon. I can tell, even...

from “I’ll Be Right There”

Dahn sent me the first letter a year after he joined the military and was selected for the special forces. It was more than five pages long. He didn’t mention anywhere in it that he was in a special forces unit. I unfolded the letter and put it on my desk. From GI Dahn to Civilian Yoon . . . I stared at those words for a long time. It pained me to realize that I had never written him back. I filled a fountain pen with ink, took out a new notebook, and wrote his name at the...

The Vegetarian

Before my wife turned vegetarian, I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way. To be frank, the first time I met her I wasn’t even attracted to her. Middling height; bobbed hair neither long nor short; jaundiced, sickly-looking skin; somewhat prominent cheekbones; her timid, sallow aspect told me all I needed to know. As she came up to the table where I was waiting, I couldn’t help but notice her shoes—the plainest black shoes imaginable. And...

From the Translator: The \“I\” in Communism

North or South? Whether you’re Korean-American or an expat living in South Korea, it’s the question everyone wants to ask you. Which Korea are you from? Which Korea are you living in? It’s usually answered with an eye roll and a muttered “South, obviously.” Which isn’t to say that no one is ever from the North (the relevance of this question could soon change, given the number of defectors), but for expats, at least, the absurdity lies in the notion of...

Reclaiming North Korean Literature

Engaging with ancient literature has its difficulties. Even if we put aside the unfamiliar details of cultural context, there remain factors such as genre, function, and form that can be daunting for the modern reader. The didactic genre is currently out of fashion (Vergil's bee-keeping manual in poetic form is not a modern favorite); earnest patriotism expressed through poetry is difficult to take at face value today (Wilfred Owen imbued "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori"...

O. Cuniculi

A rabbit. He turned at the sound of rustling in the bushes and spotted a ball of white fluff. What he’d mistaken for a white dog was staring at him with red eyes. He wouldn’t have known it was a rabbit if not for the eyes. He knelt before it. The eyes held him captive. As he gazed into them, relief at the thought that he was not the only one in this world with eyes red from exhaustion washed over him, and he chafed to think such a being had been stranded in an unlit park for...

Necessary or True Happenstances: An Introduction to the Work of Hye Young-Pyun

“O. Cuniculi” is featured in Hye Young-Pyun’s third collection of short stories, Evening Courtship, for which she was awarded the prestigious Dong-in Literature Prize last year. The story begins one night in a park when a man on temporary assignment out in the country is captivated by the red eyes of a rabbit “whose white fur had turned filthy.” The man brings the rabbit home inside his shirt. But he will soon regret it, and in the end he will not know how to...

Passing Through Seongeup Village

Whenever I gaze into a horse’s virtuous eyes, it seems to know nothing but the indigent evening in the direction the wind is blowing from. Translation of   "Seongeup maeureul jinamyeo. " By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Yoo Hui-Sok. All rights reserved.

Writing Poems without Meaning

Sham-seeming life gauze-mask-like thoughts is there no removing the mask from consciouness? Disposing words without meaning Writing poems without meaning Writing poems like scraps of debris scraps of shattering consciousness Translation of   " Eumi eopneun sireul sseunda. "   By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by Brother Anthony of Taizé. All rights reserved.

The Boy in the Cave

Each and every person’s eyes all shine in the sky. The sea under the sky is limpid through and through. It seems the crying of countless newborn babes can be heard emerging from the sea 230 feet down 260 feet down that far down everything can be seen in the sea limpid limpid. Above the sea the sun eventually sets. It will rise again tomorrow. Rise and set again tomorrow. Ah, the sunset glow over the whole East Sea! Some hundred miles out from the shore out in...

Blizzard in the Jungle, Part Two

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North Korean intrigue in the African jungle.

Listen, everyone, the plane was sabotaged.


Blizzard in the Jungle

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Crying over Light Green

Even as I scoop Korean sushi into my mouth with a trembling hand, the train forces the fields of summer into my eyes. The light-green rice paddies prick my pupils. Why is the field so green? No, the word "green" is hardly adequate. Every shade of green is said to be the same, but to me light green is different— a color containing a wave or a rustle that never bows its head. Look at the pure rice plants. Why is my heart so dark? I swallow a fourth piece of Korean sushi...

An Interview with Hayun Jung

How easy was it for you, living in Seoul, to find work for the North Korea section of Literature from the "Axis of Evil" ? Because there are very few North Korean publications available to the outside world, and all the more so in South Korea, the only place I could gain access to North Korean literature in Seoul was the library at the Ministry of Reunification, where all periodicals from the North was available, including Choson Munhak, the official publication from NK's official...

Earnie

For the rap version of this story, click here. 1 She's here, she's here. Here at the office to see us. The Big Dog, her manager, comes, too. Comes in a bomb-ass Chrysler, his lackeys tag along. She's here, back at our PR club. Back after six months to erase herself. The new girls are all excited, 'cause this singer shows up. All crazy with excitement. They shout. Get all worked up. But she doesn't budge. She sits stiff behind the tinted glass inside the fuckin'...

Taklamakan Desert

Washing her hair as the sun rises a thighless one pours a dipper full of sand over her hair and lowers her head into the sand pit with a splash. The footless one tosses her hair in pendulum as she rinses it out in the sand river. This chestless, hairless, O, bodiless one washes her hair. We shall never come . . . or go . . . you there . . . and me here. Dry strands of hair from the fallen days rise and tumble, swaying this way and that. From sunrise to sundown the woman...

Diary of the Fat Sofa

I got up early in the morning, brushed my teeth, washed my face, and sat at the table. (Not true. To be honest, when I got up late this morning and sat at the table, my wife asked me to brush my teeth and wash my face before coming to the table. So I brushed my teeth, washed up, and sat at the table.) Because there was a bowl of reheated soup before me I yawned long and hard even though it was morning, like an animal in the zoo opening its lower jaw without a noise, closing its ugly...

Camel’s Eye

Note: The narrator is a South Korean soldier who has just returned from the war in Vietnam by ship and is waiting on the dock to be transported home by train. At the urging of a young sergeant who once served in his platoon, the two men decide to sneak out for a night on the town. "Please, can I have a look, Commander?" "At what?" "You said you'd brought back something special." I pulled the clear plastic pouch out of my shirt pocket. I removed the two hook-shaped objects from...

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