Just a quickie:
Interesting interview with Kim Seong-kon, director of the third Seoul International Forum for Literature sponsored by the Daesan Foundation. Besides addressing the obligatory question of why Korean novels don’t do well overseas:
Kim emphasized that we are now living in “the age of post-ideology” and Korean writers should choose literary topics that can also be easily shared with readers outside Korea. “Themes that concentrate on Korean nationalism and the Korean War can no longer attract international audience [sic],” Kim said. “The days of Marxism and nationalism are over. But a lot of Korean authors still remain in such ideological writing. I’d like to see them moving on.”
I agree that readers have not responded well in the past to the heavy nationalism and realism in a lot of Korean literature, but this (possibly too embedded) reader’s opinion is that there seem to be more and more nuanced readings of *that period* (looking at you, 1970s and 80s Klit) of Korean literature that see past overtly nationalist narratives to questions about Korea’s involvement in Vietnam, its development (natch), and very broadly the articulation of nationalism in a globalizing geopolitical context. But in this age of globalism this and neoliberalism that, I think we can re-read the earlier stuff outside the Cold War context that seemingly reduces it to a nationalist binary and in a more global (cough) context. If anything, I’ve been seeing (in line with many scholars) a greater focus on cultural nationalism as political nationalism becomes an ossified form and sort of irrelevant allegiance in the face of diverse population flows across national boundaries.
Orhan Pamuk is a good example of an author who has been received as global/universal, but writes very specifically about the national problems of Turkey, no?
In any case, I’m excited for the event, which is supposed to include Jean-Marie Gustabe Le Clezio, Gao Xingjian, Kim U-chang, Yi Mun-yol, Sung Suk-je, Eun Hee-kyung, Gong Ji-young, Choi Yoon, and Bok Geo-il. May 23-27 at Kyobo Convention Center in Seoul.
And this gem:
“There are two sets of myths about this forum,” Kim said. “One is that someone would win a Nobel Prize after they participate in the event. Le Clezio and Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk belong to this case. The second one is rather sad. It’s that if you participate in the forum at an old age, you’d die a few years after you return to your country. French scholars Jean Baudrillard (1929―2007) and Pierre Bourdieu (1930―2002) happened to be that way.”
Forget “Korea: sparkling!” How about “Korea: Nobel Prize or Death!”