The Rainy Spell by Yun Heunggil
- onNovember 21, 2014
- Vol.6 Winter 2009
- byStyrbjörn Gustafsson
Tr. Ahruyn Gustafsson 2009
Translated fiction constitutes a major part of Swedish publishing, almost as large as Swedish fiction itself. Out of some 3,000 titles of prose and poetry published every year, translated fiction comprises some 25 percent, thus making up a substantial and very important part of the Swedish literary scene. This is a scene heavily dominated by literature from the U.S. and U.K., with some 75 percent of all translated fiction coming from these two countries. During the last few decades the tendency towards translating Anglo-Saxon literature has increased. Literature from the continental languages such as German, French, and Spanish has, on the other hand, decreased. These languages only represent a small percentage of all translations. And the rest of the world, including Korea, is only represented by a fraction of a percent.
Some four-fifths of the world’s population and their literature are barely present in the Swedish literary market. While there is much talk about globalization, and with an increase in border crossings of all kinds, we are witnessing the opposite when it comes to literature as its becoming more provincial.
Tranan Publishing House was founded in order to introduce literature from the world. Reading from the whole world is our motto. We issued our first book in 1992, and have since then published some 160 titles. We specialize in translated fiction and poetry from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, but we also publish literature from other language areas neglected in the Swedish book market such as German, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Among our flagship projects is the storytelling series, in which new, interesting short stories from all parts of the world are presented for the Swedish audience. So far 15 countries have been represented, including Germany, Poland, China, Vietnam, and South Africa.
In 2006, Trasten was created as an imprint for children’s literature. Against this backdrop we are indeed pleased, and proud to have published three Korean literary works (two by Yi Mun-yol and one by Yun Heunggil), and one children’s book, World Within the Map by Choi Sukhee and Kim Hyangkeum.
Apart from that there are only a handful of Korean literature titles (among them poetry by Ko Un) published in Swedish. This fact raises some serious concerns about our country’s chances to better know the Korean people, their history, culture, and their art of writing. It is our ambition to pursue as soon as possible our publishing of Korean literature.
Let me say a few words about the latest Korean book we have published, three short stories by Yun Heunggil: “The Rainy Spell” (Regnperioden), “Sailing Without A Mast” (Vind för våg), and “Firewood” (Bränslebrist). I do not think it is necessary to introduce a writer who is one of Korea’s best-known authors. But we are indeed very pleased and proud to have published this fine and important work. These stories bring us back to the traumatic civil war. After the cease-fire, a new generation of Korean writers made their debuts, bringing modern and realistic writing onto the scene. The three stories we have published center on the war experiences and its deep effects on Korean society, and we may add, even on world politics.
In the first story “The Rainy Spell” (Regnperioden), we are placed in the midst of the ongoing war, and the writer creates in a strong and convincing way a work of literature with all the extreme conflicts affecting individuals, families, and society. Still everyday life must go on. Yun Heunggil manages to convince us how life may endure in spite of deep divisions and conflicts. In the other two stories, the writer brings us into the aftermath of the war—how people have to fight to survive, and how the foreign troops show little respect for Korean values and culture.
Yun Heunggil is a great writer giving us these insights into modern Korea, and with a language and character development only found in high literature.