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Korean novelist attends US events for her books

Posted October. 27, 2014 07:12,   


“This is a gift for my mom. I’m worried she will cry a lot like I did (after reading this book).”

A blue-eyed U.S. girl shyly presented Shin Kyung-sook with the English version novel of “Please Look After Mom” at the international symposium of “Shin Kyung-sook and Korean Literature,” which was held at UC Berkeley on Friday. She asked for Shin’s autograph, saying she wanted to move her mother’s heart as it had moved hers. A pure smile spread over the face of Shin who had appeared highly nervous throughout the symposium.

Shin’s "Please Look After Mom" was published three years ago in the U.S., and once ranked 14th on the New York Times bestseller list. It has also been introduced into a total of 35 nations including the U.K., Japan, and France.

This event, which the UC Berkeley Center for Korean Studies hosted, was under enthusiastic response with the 150-some seats all taken. One young man, who said he’d read Shin’s "I’ll Be Right There," which had been published in the U.S. in June 2014, said he had read the English version first and was curious about what expressions the original had used, so he had obtained and read the Korean version. He said the English and Korean original titles were highly different.

Before the autograph session, professors of Korean literature and foreigner translators presented a wide variety of papers on the translation situation and the characteristics of Shin’s work. Some participants came from Canada and Italy in addition to various regions in the U.S. Laura Nelson, chief of Berkeley`s Center for Korean Studies, said it was the first time an international symposium was opened on just one Korean writer. Dankook University chair professor Kwon Young-min, who had planned the event as a visiting professor for the East Asian literature department of Berkeley, said it was a symbolic example of Korean literature widening globally.

Marcella Marini, who edited the Italian version of "Please Look After Mom," said, "Shin’s novels have a universal appeal that transcends nationality and ethnicity." Marini said Shin writes about the special history of Korea while also portraying the universal theme of love, which suits Italy’s Catholic culture. In particular, Marini said the book`s friction between parents and children have sizable implications for Europeans as well.

Marini was unusual given that she translated the Korean text into Italian directly, instead of going through an English version beforehand. Marini said that unlike Korean, Italian does not have an abundance of words expressing emotions, making the translation into Italian of Shin’s long yet elegant style difficult.

Jeong Ha-yeon, professor at Ewha Womans University Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation, emphasized the importance of translations in the globalization of Korean literature. “What is important in Shin’s novels are the unique tone and the voice of different personalities of each character, which makes it difficult to translate into a foreign language. The key is to deliver the beauty of the style inside the novel,” Jeong said.

UC Berkeley Center for Korean Studies plans to invite Korean writers to hold seminars, lectures and readings in the future. Shin is the first in that series. It also plans to steadily translate and publish a wide variety of literary works including Korean classics and research papers. In addition, the center plans to hold “International Korean Literature Translation Workshop” for the training of high-level translators.

Shin plans to visit Stanford on Wednesday to attend the reading of the English version of "I’ll Be Right There."