Deborah Smith, a British translator who
received the coveted 2016 Man Booker Prize for her translation of Han Kang’s
novel The Vegetarian and introduced and promoted Korean literature in Europe,
visited HUFS for a special lecture on January 22, 2019. Under the theme
“Translation’s Feminist Frontlines”, she delivered her lecture at the BRICs
International Forum of the Seoul Campus.
She was also shortlisted for the 2018
Man Booker Prize for her translation of the same Korean author’s The White
Book. By winning the renowned international literary award, she has brought
global attention to not only the Korean female novelist but also Korean literature’s
possibilities on the global stage.
Her lecture was arranged by the HUFS Department of English Literature and
Culture under the sponsorship of the Initiative for College of Humanities’
Research and Education (CORE). The sponsorship was offered as part of HUFS
CORE’s advanced research program. The lecture drew an audience of around 80
HUFS faculty members, undergraduates, and graduate and doctoratal students from
different majors but sharing the same interest in translation as well as
Her lecture began with welcoming remarks by HUFS Professor Yoon Seon-kyung who
teaches a graduate course in literary translation. During her lecture, Ms.
Smith touched upon various topics, including the cultural difficulties she
faced in translating the works of the non-Western female author, the demand for
Korean literary works in overseas markets, and how meaningful it is to unveil
and overturn the deeply-entrenched patriarchal culture by translating the works
of female writers.
In particular, she drew the audience’s attention to the politics of
translation, a topic that has not been explored previously. She pointed out the
vertical power structure easily found in feminized translations and offered
alternatives to the conventional translation approach. Furthermore, she noted
the similarity between women under patriarchal oppression and feminized
translations and the need to fight the patriarchal order, proposing that
literary translation should move beyond the ‘feminized’ approach and towards the
‘feminist’ approach. As the wave of MeToo revelations continues to gain
momentum in Korea, she struck the right chord by exploring the issues of
translation and women. She demonstrated that translation is not the task of
translating texts from one language to another, but it can have huge
implications on the entire society. In this sense, her lecture was a very
meaningful occasion that helped the audience realize the dire need for
long-term support for, and interest in, literary translation.