The 14th LTI Korea Translation Award: In Search of Resonance

  • onJanuary 4, 2017
  • Vol.34 Winter 2016
  • byKyong-Hae Flügel

I began translating Korean literature when Korea was designated the Guest of Honor for the 2005 Frankfurt Book Fair. Selected as a co-translator for one of the books in the subsequent “One Hundred Korean Books” project, I engaged in literary translation for the first time in my life, which in turn led me to LTI Korea, who went on to support me in translating Korean fiction for the next decade. I am very happy and honored to be receiving such a significant prize from them for my translation of Seven Years of Darkness.


The original work is over five hundred pages long and the deadline was tight, but my pains bore fruit as the work garnered positive responses from German readers. It was wellreviewed in many periodicals, with the famous weekly Die Zeit choosing it as one of the best mystery novels of 2015.


They say translation is another form of creative writing. Translation is not simply an act of replacing words in one language for those in another; such an approach would yield nothing anyhow. The translator’s fate is to suffer through painstaking examination of not only the surface expressions of a literary text but also the inner life of the source material, to minimize the Otherness of “translationese” while maximizing the original feeling of the source text. Whenever I begin a new translation, I am struck by the impossibility of rendering for German readers the same sense of theme, atmosphere, and situation that Korean readers would get, but in this process I also feel that such difficulties are what enable me to learn and grow. I am grateful to my husband for helping me along this incredible journey.


I believe that my greatest reward as a translator, in this process of conveying the culture, emotions, thoughts, and lives of Koreans, is my pride in rousing among German readers not disgust towards the unfamiliar in either content or form, but a kind of exotic attraction or interest in a new culture.


For the past few years I’ve seen more and more young German students becoming interested in Korean dramas, movies, and K-pop. I hope that I can have a hand in Korean literature also finding its way into the Korean Wave phenomenon.




by Kyong-Hae Flügel