- Beim Erwachen aus dem Schlaf (Awakening From Sleep)
Tr. Kim Miy-He 2007111pp.
It is a great honor for Wallstein Publishing to have been able to publish Awakening from Sleep, a selection of poems by Ko Un. Ko Un is probably the most internationally renowned Korean poet, and his works have long been highly praised and translated into a number of other languages. When Wallstein first decided to publish an anthology of Ko Un’s poems, we were already aware of the great importance of this writer. Ko Un’s work had already been published by the German publishers Suhrkamp in 1988, and also by Pendragon, a company that has been striving to introduce Korean literary works in Germany for a long time. Unfortunately we were only able to experience Ko Un’s other books through English or Swedish translations, since we were unable to read the original Korean.
At that time, Ko Un was not very well known in Germany, nor indeed in other major countries. We hoped that by taking the lead in publishing Awakening from Sleep we could do something to change this situation. Wallstein would like to promote Ko Un’s work more widely and also publish translations of his other works. Continuously publishing various works by the same author is not only the most meaningful project for both writer and publisher, but it also acknowledges the great importance of that writer.
Wallstein has been publishing Korean works of literature in German since 2005. Apart from Ko Un, we have published translations of the works of four Korean writers (Kim Ji-ha, Hwang Ji-u, Lee Yun-gi, and Yi Mun-yol) so far, all of which have been prominently reviewed in leading literary magazines and the literary columns of newspapers. The number of copies originally published was not large, but some of these books have run to second editions. The success of these works is largely due to the high assessment of the translations in literary reviews.
A major contributing factor in Wallstein’s decision to publish Korean literature was the enormous effort that relevant Korean organizations had put into finding outstanding translators. Famous German poets participated as co-translators, polishing the draft versions of the Korean translators, to produce poetry that matched traditional German poetic style yet at the same time conveyed the spirit of Korean culture. Uwe Kolbe was a translator for the poems of Hwang Ji-u, and Mathias Göritz for Kim Ji-ha’s poetry. Kurt Drawert is working on the translation of an anthology of poetry due to be published in 2008. All three are famous writers recognized by the German reading public. In the case of poetry in particular, the quality of the translation is absolutely crucial.