【서울=뉴시스】이재훈 기자 = 소설가 이문열(63)씨의 단편
'익명의 섬'이 미국 주간 '뉴요커(The New Yorker)'에 실린다.
2일 출판사 민음사에 따르면 '익명의 섬' 전문은 5일(현지시간)
배포되는 12일자 뉴요커에 번역, 게재된다.
140만부를 발행하는 뉴요커는 세계적인 시사교양지다.
그간 일본 소설가 오에 겐자부로(76)와 무라카미 하루키(62),
터키 소설가 오르한 파묵(59) 등이 작품을 게재했다.
앞서 2006년 시인 고은(78)씨의 시 4편이 이 잡지에 번역돼
실린 적은 있으나 한국 작가의 소설로는 '익명의 섬'이 처음이다.
민음사는 "미국에서 출판되는 소설 중 외국 소설 단행본의
비중은 3%에 불과하다.
뉴요커의 경우도 1년에 외국 작가는 단 한 명만
실정"이라며 "따라서 이번에 이문열의 소설이 이 잡지에
소개된다는 건 작품성이 세계적인 평가를 받다는 것을
'익명의 섬'은 이씨가 1982년 '세계의 문학' 봄호에 발표했다. 혈연이나 인척 관계로 구성된
사람들이 사는 산골 마을에서 반푼이 행세를 하는 깨철이와 마을 아낙네들의 음흉한 관계를
다룬다. 이를 통해 인간 내면의 성적인 욕망을 까발린 작품이다.
한편, 1948년 서울에서 태어난 이씨는 서울대 국어교육과를 중퇴했다. 1979년 동아일보
'사람의 아들'과 '젊은날의 초상', '우리들의 일그러진 영웅', 평역소설
'삼국지'와 '수호지' 등이 있다.
동인문학상, 이상문학상, 현대문학상 등을 수상했다. 그의 작품들은 지금까지
미국과 프랑스, 영국, 독일,이탈리아 등 20여개국
15개 언어로 번역돼 출간됐다
★ - 9월 6일자 <The New Yorker>에 미리 소개 한 기사를 옮겨왔습니다.- ★
The New Yorker - September 6, 2011-
The Book Bench
Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department.
This Week in Fiction: Yi Mun-yol
Heinz Insu Fenkl, the translator of this week’s story, “An Anonymous Island
,” by the Korean writer Yi Mun-yol, talks to Cressida Leyshon, a fiction
editor at the magazine.
“An Anonymous Island” is set in an isolated village in the
mountains, where the narrator is
taking up her first post as a teacher.
Yi is one of South Korea’s most prominent
contemporary writers and has
been publishing fiction since 1979. Some of his work is
English, most notably his novels “Our Twisted Hero” and “The Poet,”
of his novels and stories have not yet been translated into
English. How typical is
“An Anonymous Island” of his writing?
Korean critics often focus on the erudition and the seriousness of the
themes in Yi’s work,
so in that sense, “An Anonymous Island” would be a
typical Yi Mun-yol story for its
critique of Confucian propriety.
As a translator, I’ve had to examine his work very intimately, from
the “inside,” and
I would say the story is typical of Yi’s work for a
different reason. Yi uses a recurring
structural device, the layering of
his own persona with an incongruous first person narrator,
Anonymous Island” follows. Even when his narrator’s language seems very
accessible and informal, his stories tend to contain many layers of
meaning in his word
choice and imagery. This is certainly true of “An
Anonymous Island,” and it is one of
the things that makes Yi
particularly engaging and challenging to translate.
Could you give an example of the layers of meaning in the original Korean text?
One of the literary devices Yi uses, a
technique characteristic of classical Korean literature,
is what I call
the “physiognomy of names.” Korean is written in the Korean alphabet as
well as in Chinese characters, and there is a lot of wordplay that
the use of homophones (words that sound the same when
written in the Korean alphabet
but have different meanings when written
in the Chinese character). Ggaecheol, one of the
has a distinct name, which the narrator ironically calls “a childish
Ggae, the first syllable of Ggaecheol’s name, is the name of
the perilla plant, which has
edible leaves. The plant itself is very
invasive, reseeding itself and growing like a weed
once it’s planted. It
comes back, year after year, and proliferates. Ggae is also the
word for sesame seeds. When ggae is used as a verb, it means to wake up, to become
sober, or to break something. Cheol, the second syllable, can mean iron, or steel, or
season, or a time of year. It can also be read as “clear water.”
Given his role in the story as an invasive presence that literally
fertilizes the women
with his “seed,” you can see the layers of symbolic
meaning in his name based on
At the very beginning of the story, the narrator’s husband talks
about seeing one’s face
reflected in clear water. When the narrator
first notices him, it is because of a strange
“light” that comes from
At the end of the story, Ggaecheol is compared to an emperor. This is
Chinese character wordplay becomes more prominent. In Korean,
the word for
emperor is hwangje, made up of the two word/syllables hwang and je.
You can see the overlap between Ggaecheol’s name and the title of
how those overlapping associations relate to qualities
embodied by Ggaecheol in the
story. Hwangje also happens to sound like hwang jae (jae meaning “ash”). So hwangje
sounds like “yellow ash,” an image very similar to that of ground
sesame seeds, which
look like a golden yellow powder. These are only
some of the more prominent
associations between the name Ggaecheol and
the word for “emperor.” But looking
at them closely shows how Yi
reinforces a surprising range of the story’s major themes
use of these four common words.
In “An Anonymous Island,” the narrator’s position as an outsider is
central to the narrative.
As the story unfolds her curiosity is provoked
by the only other outsider, Ggaecheol,
a vagrant who drifted into the
village years ago. How significant is this perspective in Yi’s
familiar would most of Yi’s Korean readers be with the way of life in
such a village
The “outsider” or the “wanderer” is one of Yi’s favorite themes. That
figure is an
archetype in Korean literature (often romanticized), but Yi
handles it with special
authenticity and poignancy because he has had
to live that role for much of his life.
As you know, he was a kind of
pariah because of what his father had done.
Older Korean readers would be quite familiar with the way of life in
an isolated Korean
village like the one in “An Anonymous Island,” some
of it from first-hand
experience. Contemporary readers would have an
“idea” of that way of life, but largely
through television and film
representations, which are full of stereotypes. So the story
somewhat shocking to both generations, but in very different ways.
Yi was born in Seoul, in 1948, one of five children. In 1950, his
father defected to the
North during the Korean War, abandoning the
family. What impact did that have on Yi
as a child? How palpable are
those divisions—both of the country and of his family—in his
The themes of division, estrangement, and the search for connection
a lot of Yi’s work, as you can imagine. Yi had to endure
the stigma of his father’s defection
to the North for most of his life.
It had a profound effect on his childhood, his sense of
even on his later academic career. The specter of the Korean War has
never gone away in South Korea.
Yi wrote a short novel that directly addresses the theme of division
in “Meeting with My
Brother,” in which the narrator arranges a meeting
with his North Korean half brother
(whom he has never met) shortly after
he learns of his father’s death in the North.
For my new translation of “Meeting with My Brother,” Yi added a short
dramatizes how his father abandoned the family at the
outset of the Korean War, and
though it is somewhat fictionalized, it is
one of the most poignant scenes in his entire
body of work. “Meeting
with My Brother” is one of the best descriptions of the
political and social dynamics between North and South Korea. Millions
Korean families are still separated by the War (which has never
technically ended) and
many of the survivors are now quite elderly.
That division is a profound national trauma that is still felt quite
viscerally by the
generations that remember the war first-hand. I grew
up in Korea in the
nineteen-sixties, and every single family I knew had
either been separated by the war
or had lost close relatives who had
died through military action or through the ordeal
of living as
refugees. Many of the older Koreans (like my mother, who is now eighty)
are like military veterans. As they grow older, they dwell more and
more on their memories
of the war years.
You spent your childhood in Korea, the son of a Korean mother and
a German- American
father in the U.S. Army, before moving to the United
States and then Germany. When did
you first start reading Yi’s work?
What made you want to translate him?
I first read Yi’s work in the nineteen-eighties and I felt an
especially strong connection
with him when I read “Meeting with My
Brother” a few years ago. I had also
written an autobiographical novel,
“Memories of My Ghost Brother,” which
explored my relationship with my
family and my half-brother, from whom I was
separated. The “ghost
brother” of the title was my half-brother, whom I have always
Reading Yi’s portrayal of the meeting between two brothers kept apart
by war and the
ongoing political disputes gave me deeper insight into
my own sense of loss and the
ongoing tragic legacy of the Korean War.
What made me want to translate Yi’s work was an unexpected resonance.
with My Brother” affected me greatly, and then I rediscovered
his older historical works—
the ones Korean critics label as especially
erudite. He was writing in a kind of neoclassical
Korean style with many
allusions to Tang Dynasty Chinese culture and arcane
Taoist culture. Those works instantly “clicked” with me because I
to be in the middle of translating a seventeenth-century Korean
Buddhist novel, “The Nine
Cloud Dream,” by Kim Man-jung that was
written in Chinese characters.
Yi turned out to be surprisingly affable and accessible when I met
him while he was
visiting at Harvard. When I started translating his
work I discovered that his voice was
far more engaging and vivid than
what came across in previous English versions.
You’re currently translating Yi’s 1983 novel, “Hail to the Emperor!”
When and where is
the novel set? Does it share any of the qualities of
“An Anonymous Island”?
Yi’s stories and novels are usually driven by the power of the
narrator’s voice. In that
sense, the two works are similar. But “Hail
to the Emperor!” is an epic allegory of modern
Korean history told in
imitation of ancient Yi Dynasty hagiographies.
If you can imagine a novel permeated with arcane knowledge like
“Magister Ludi” with the tragic and epiphanic elements
of “King Lear” and set in
Korea and Manchuria with references to Taoism,
Shamanism, Buddhism, and
Confucianism, that will give you a sense of
its style. The story is about a man who
believes he is the authentic
emperor of Korea, and despite the fact that almost
everyone takes him
for a madman, his belief and determination are so fierce that he
transforms his delusion into reality.
This is Yi Mun-yol’s first story in The New Yorker. What was his response to the
prospect of appearing in the magazine?
Yi is delighted to reach a wide new circle of readers, especially
those who are so
well-known for their interest in literature and the
arts. He’s already celebrated with
friends in Seoul in honor of the