Huzzah! The new issue of Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature & Culture is out, with special features on South Korean science fiction and Hong Gildong. The translations include stories by Kim Kyung-uk, Kim Jung-Hyuk, Park Min-gyu, Bae Myung Hoon, Han Yujoo, Koh Jongsok, and Seo Hajin.
New old stuff from the inimitable Brother Anthony:
Seoul Selection have just published “Eerie Tales from Old Korea” a collection of Korean ghost stories originally translated and published 100 years ago by Homer B. Hulbert and James S. Gale, that I have selected and published to celebrate the 150th birthdays of Gale and Hulbert. Happy Birthdays, both, and thanks to Seoul Selection. I just hope they sell well and people enjoy them.
Homer B. Hulbert and James S. Gale, two of the most famous North American missionaries to come to Korea in the 1880s, were very fond of ghost stories, but for years the Korean scholars they met swore that no such stories existed in Korea. Eventually, they discovered that Korea, too, had a plentiful supply of ghosts and spirits, celebrated in many eerie tales. However, because the stories had seemed too frivolous or were connected with shamanism and Buddhism, the scholars had been ashamed to talk about them.
A main source of these stories were collections of yadam. These were a form of short tale, especially popular in the Joseon period. Whereas Confucian classics were the gateway to officialdom, yadam offered an escape valve, dealing with things much closer to daily life. The stories told there were about individuals who were not always admirable paragons of Confucian virtue; rather, they were often artful dodgers who managed to escape from tricky situations; survive traps; deal with ghosts, spirits, and nine-tailed foxes; and even get rich in the process.
As we celebrate the one hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Hulbert and Gale, the present selection of Korean ghost stories—nostalgic for their echoes of the lost world of old Korea and its many ghosts—is offered for the pleasure of readers in the twenty-first century, one hundred years after their original publication.
Apparently, Dan Brown’s latest novel Inferno took eleven translators to an underground “bunker” near Milan to translate nonstop for three months. There’s a joke about some monkeys and typewriters (all chain smoking and drinking coffee in my mind’s eye) in there somewhere, but…
Dante himself would have been impressed. For nearly two months, 11 people were kept tucked away in an underground “bunker” near Milan, Italy, (actually a windowless high-security basement at the Milan headquarters of Mondadori, Italy’s largest publishing company, owned by Silvio Burlusconi) where they worked seven days a week until at least 8pm each night; all to translate Dan Brown’s new book, Inferno, into French, German, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, and Portuguese in preparation for its multi-nation simultaneous release on its publication date of May 14.
Here’s a news clip about it, complete with porno-background music (is the news site owned by Berlusconi too?). Dan Brown, iI girone dei traduttori: ”Noi, chiusi nel bunker” – Repubblica Tv – la Repubblica.it (mostly in English, with the Italians unsubtitled as it’s from an Italian news source). Once they get past the sensationalist parts about describing the bunkers, it’s pretty interesting to hear the translators describing their respective approaches to translation, like the one who says he never reads a novel he’s translating beforehand, so he can experience the book as a first time reader would.
I’m also impressed/surprised about the move towards the multinational simultaneous launch of the book, à la blockbuster movies and such. I guess blockbusters are blockbusters regardless of medium these days.
Not that it hasn’t been said before, but well put. And in the interest of essentializing, HE wrote a novel about an Indian American mother and daughter?! What does he know about the female experience?! Hahahahaha.
Seriously, though, does the tag “immigrant experience” necessarily mean it’s “minority literature”? Are they 100% conflated?
I don’t know how long they’ll keep this available, but here’s the L.A. Koreatown episode of Anthony Bourdain’s new show, Parts Unknown. Bourdain’s guides to Ktown are two “bad Koreans”: Roy Choi, chef/owner of the Kogi Taco Trucks, and David Choe, the artist. I’ve already heard some people criticizing the episode for being inauthentic, ignorant, and even culinarily offensive (‘Jollybee in an episode about Koreatown?!’ said one friend of a friend), but I thought it was pretty interesting for how it was so adamantly Korean American, regardless of whatever essentializing of Korean culture and history the two native informants accomplish. Their Ktown is, for this current boom in K-cuisine (yes, I think the aggressive marketing, experimentation, and exoticized domestication of Korean cuisine warrants it becoming a K-product), such a defining site for the history of Koreans in America. But they do identify in different moments as Korean (un-hyphenated), like when Choe’s father connects the conversation about the impact of the L.A. riots and the rise of Ktown to Korea’s current global cultural presence: ”now Korean culture, K-pop, Psy, it’s all over the world, [the] influence.” The somewhat random assemblage of cultural practices and food as what defines Ktown and Koreanness is what’s interesting about the story, because it says more about how cultures are personally codified (through food, location, interactions with different communities, parents, punishment…) and created emotionally and physically through consumption (mostly food, in this case).
In the end, it’s a TV show with the basic premise of eating the exotic, but this time they’re trying to exoticize the local as well (next episode: Colombia, and the one after: Canada. Trés chic). And it did include my new favorite explanation of han* from David Choe’s awesomely coiffed and accessorized momas David read aloud the definition from Wikipedia ): “It’s heartburn.”
On May 2, Dari Project will release the first bilingual publication of personal narratives and artwork by LGBTQ Korean Americans.
Written in the tongue of two languages, Dari’s revolutionary and monumental collection of twenty-five personal essays features voices from the Korean diaspora in the U.S.—including adoptees, mixed-race, and transgender Korean Americans—and shares stories of coming out to immigrant parents, addressing homophobia/transphobia in the Korean church, organizing the community after a gay bashing in Koreatown, and more.
Oldish news by now, but the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in fiction was awarded to Adam Johnson forThe Orphan Master’s Son, a novel set in “the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.” I haven’t read it yet, but there does seem to be a lot of imagining of Korea going on of late.
Here’s a description of the novel via goodreads. At the very least, it sounds like somebody’s seen Pulgasari(which, if you haven’t seen, you should)…
An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Sonfollows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.
Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.
Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”
Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master’s Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love. A towering literary achievement, The Orphan Master’s Son ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today’s greatest writers.(less)