[2018 LTI Korea Translation Awards] On Books and Friends

  • onDecember 11, 2018
  • byKatharina Borchardt

It was in 2005 that I read my first Korean book. So that year marked my initiation—yes, let’s call it that—to Korean literature.

In October 2005, Korea was Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the biggest book fair in the world. It was an impressive presentation that had already begun in Leipzig in the spring of that year. As you might know, Germany organizes two book fairs every year: one takes place in the eastern German city of Leipzig in March and the other one takes place in the western German city of Frankfurt in October. Two book fairs in one country—that’s due to the separation Germany underwent for forty-one years.

To make a long story short: In 2005, Korea gave a wonderful performance in Germany, lots of authors arrived to give readings and lots of books were translated into German. That was the starting point for me to read Korean books, to travel to Korea three times, to interview authors and, of course, to write about it all. I haven’t counted up all of my reports, my author portraits, my book reviews in the newspapers or on the radio nor all of my presentations of Korean authors on stage in different German cities. It’s quite a number because in 2005 I became addicted to Korean literature and since then I have not been able to stop reading Korean books.

The funny thing is that I had Korean friends right from the beginning of my studies—not knowing at the time that I would one day plunge into their literature so deeply only a few years later. All of them were exchange students to Germany.

First of all, there is Bae Sang-Joon with whom I lived in student housing in Marburg. He’s now a professor of film theory at the Department of Digital Culture & Contents, Konkuk University. Afterwards, I met philosopher Ko Ji-Hyun from Anyang University with whom I founded a Walter Benjamin study group in Bremen. And then there is Kim Nam-See, assistant professor of visual arts at Ewha Womans University, whom I got to know in another philosophy study group in Berlin. Nowadays I’m also friends with philosopher Lee Wonho who still lives in Berlin, fortunately not too far from my house. And last but not least, there is author Han Kang with whom I became friends when she travelled to Germany in 2005 to present her first short story to be translated into German.

I’m deeply touched to receive the 2018 LTI Korea Distinguished Service Award. Primarily, of course, because it’s such an honor to have my work appreciated so much. But also, because this award comes from Korea, the home country of so many good old friends of mine.

Thank you very much!


by Katharina Borchardt