My grant period as a Fulbright Fellow has come to an end. Now I'm a Fulbright alumna. Despite that, I know I've only just taken a few strides down this new road of literary translation. Nothing feels finished–that's a good thing, for me–and I have a vision for the future.
I've been spending some time with another literary translator who is in Mongolia on holiday for a week from Korea. Stephen Epstein was raised in Boston but has spent fourteen years living in New Zealand as a professor at Victoria University of Wellington. The last seven of these years he has lived between New Zealand and Korea. It has been great to pick his brain on some practical issues of literary translation, particularly because the Korean language bears some important similarities to Mongolian in sentence structure and because he has a lot more experience with literary translation that I do.
Stephen primarily translates short stories and novels. In Korea, he's involved with the Korea Literature Translation Institute, which, among many other activities, offers fellowships to translators of Korean literature who work in a variety of languages. His translation of Yang Gui-ja's Mosun (Contradictions) was recently published as part of the Cornell University's Cornell East Asia Series.
I leave Mongolia in one week's time. Consequently, I am in the process of preparing to re-enter American society. Stephen and I had a good talk about this as he was in the US after a four-year absence to visit his parents this past summer. We considered the aspects of contemporary American culture that are so disheartening: the media, the emptiness of our culture of consumption, the blatant hypocrisy, our unfortunate blackened image across the globe, etc. Though I have more pride than ever in my homeland, that land's liabilities are ever more clear to me now.