Thursday, April 07, 2011

Ask a Korean! News: Interview with Shin Kyung-Sook

The novel Please Look After Mom is poised to break out in the American market. The novel is in its third print, after selling out 103,000 copies to the bookstores through the first two prints already. Dong-A Ilbo interviewed the author Shin Kyung-Sook. Translation is below.

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On April 5, the English version of Please Look After Mom was officially released in the United States. Novelist Shin Kyung-Sook could hardly conceal her excitement, saying: "It almost has been 30 years since I debuted at age 22, but it feels like I am just starting out." Shin, met at the Consulate of Korea in New York, said: "I am gradually feeling that there is an increasing number of Americans who have read Korean literature, since Korea Literature Translation Institute has been consistently introducing Korean literature to America."

Q:  Please Look After Mom is popular in America. Why do you think that is?
A:  I think maybe there was a contact with the zeitgeist of the modern civilization, which lives on while forgetting the existence of mothers. The emotion toward mother seems to be the same in U.S. and in Korea. It doesn't matter whether the mom was found or not found in my book, because moms are in all of our hearts.

Q:  Today was the official release of the translated version. How do you feel?
A:  It feels like a deja vu. Feels like I am repeating what happened in Korea. The responses by the readers or the media are similar to Korea's as well. I heard that translated works take up less than 3 percent of American publishing market, so I am happy that my book is being well-received.

Q:  How was the responses by American readers that you met?
A:  I met a lot of them in book readings. One person talked about regretting not having reconciled with the mother that she had a fallout, and another person talked about being able to look back on how he acted toward his mother.

Q:  There must be a flavor of language and writing particular to Shin Kyung-Sook. Do you think the translated version kept the flavor well?
A:  The publisher worked on it for more than a year, and the initial translation was great. If there are still things that did not get digested in the process, that is really because of the huge difference in language. There might be some things that changed, but both the translator and I worked hard to translate it as closely as possible.

Q:  Will you write something about your stay in America?
A:  I am collecting a lot of raw material from my experience as a visitor here. [TK: Shin is a visiting scholar at Columbia University.] I listened to a lot of stories by a lot of people. I think over time, the experience and thoughts from here will be reflected into my works.

Q:  Will you write a work with an eye toward publishing abroad?
A:  I can only do my best in my mother tongue. I don't think I can write to the tastes of foreign readers. There have been persistent efforts to introduce Korean literature abroad in the last decade, and the results are starting to show. Before, there was not enough material to conduct a class, but now there are many short stories available in English. I taught a class at Columbia with the translated version of my work Strawberry Field, and I was happy to see that the students were able to fully understand the work and ask questions.

“엄마에 대한 감정은 韓-美 똑같은 것 같아” [Dong-A Ilbo]

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  1. Hi Korean!

    This book has also been translated to French and here in Montréal, Canada, it's part of a 'coup de coeur' from the largest francophone bookstore company (somehow a sort of Oprah's book choice on a smaller scale).

    Thumbs up for Mrs Shin!

  2. Thank you for translating that Korean. I met with her last month to talk about her work, and transcribed the interview on our site, We cover stuff about Korean lit in English. You should stop by; I've been a fan of your site for a while now. :-)


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