Have you ever heard of the book, “A Thousand Splendid Suns”? Many people might have read this book, written by Khaled Hosseini. This novel is one of Wang Chull’s translated works.
We met the professor who did this work with fervor.
- What made you major in literary criticism?
I was interested in literature naturally. In particular, I was interested in Korean literature, so I prepared to become a critic. I went through reasonable steps and became a critic.
- But you translate more than criticize. Why?
These days, people don’t read criticism. More than 5000 people read translated books. I think this is the way to communicate with readers. Another reason is that there are many critics of Korean literature, but translation has poor numbers.
- What do you think about translation?
I think translation is a physical work. It takes two or three months to translate a book. While I translate, I read proofs over five times. I sometimes feel stupid because I know this work is hard. But I think it is very meaningful.
I think that translation is important to the progression literature. For example, Japan invaded our country to modernize in advance. Japan was outstanding at translation. Most of the books were translated. Japan made an organization to promote translation after the Meiji Restoration in history. But Korea didn’t promote the translation business. They just translated for money. It will be possible that films or plays can broaden people’s thinking, but books are the most important and basic works to make films or plays. I hope that translation becomes active.
- How did you get interested in Third World literature?
Because of my major, I was actually interested about the non-mainstream literatures. I was interested in imperialism and colonialism in Africa, Russia, Poland, etc.
Particularly, I was interested in not only writers of South Africa or Kenya but also in the downtrodden, weak women in colonies, etc. So I began translating African literature in earnest in 1998 and 1999.
And then, when I was in South Africa as a visiting professor, I met Coetzee. I interviewed him. I translated his whole novels. Coetzee is an important writer to me. Actually, the important characteristic of Third World literature is to have enlightenment. Also, the society requires literature of enlightenment. But if writers are forced to write their novels in that way, even though they have different characteristics, the literature becomes desolated. But he doesn’t miss artistic values or social need.
At first, the publishers in Korea felt strange, but I persuaded them, and eventually published it. He became a famous worldwide writer afterwards, and he got a Nobel Prize.
I just follow my interests, and do what I have to do.
- How can you give advice to students who are interested in literary criticism?
I will suggest to them to read many books, from classics to modern novels. It can give you insight to evaluate literature. Literary criticism is not a theory. For example, film is similar to novel. If you can analyze film when you see it, you can analyze novel too. When you analyze novels you should see the structure of them in detail.
In conclusion, a good way is to read a lot of literature and see many films.
- Your lecture is very popular. What do you think about your lecture’s popularity?
I like the students. Also, I enjoy teaching, especially to undergraduates. I like to read literature. I would like to teach literature with fun. I think many students like this and want to attend my class, because I teach my favorite things in an enjoyable way to students whom I like.
- What do you want to say to university students?
I think many students are lacking in vocabulary. Seeing students around me, I find they don’t read many books. In the long term, reading many books can develop the ability of consideration much more and expand the scope of their thinking. So, I hope that they read many books. I read many books when I was their age.
We felt awkward to meet him, so we were nervous. But he welcomed us and made us comfortable. We could ask many questionsduring the interview. The books translated by him were piled up on his desk. There were books that would be published next month. We had an unforgettable time, interviewing someone who had worked very hard and actively. We hope that many people will enjoy a variety of works through his translation.
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