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 literary translators.
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.