Survival of Cruelty and Fear in Literary Translation

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Hyung – Jin Lee


Omission in literary translation is often subject to heavy scrutiny and criticism, but omission is likely to be intentional on the part of the translator, calling for more academic focus on what omission intends to generate through what is lost in omission in translation. The Good Son is the first English translation of You – jeong Jeong’s Korean novel, and it would be too much to expect the nearly 400 – page full – length Korean novel to survive in its original length and form under the harsh circumstances of the English translation and publication markets. Nevertheless, the English translation of Jeong’s novel, published by Penguin in 2018, with a significant portion of reduction and omission, in addition to the title change from ‘The Origin of Species’ in Korean into ‘The Good Son’ in the translation, has made an impressive debut in international book markets, with its translation copyright successfully sold to more than 20 countries, consequently proving the substantial level of dynamic equivalence between the source text and translation. In the English translation of The Good Son, translated by Chi – young Kim, the same translator of Kyung – sook Shin’s Please Look After Mom, significant reduction and omission have been made in the translation of the psychopathic son’s paranoid flashback monologues on his brutal matricide, while more focus is placed on the physical cruelty of his mother’s death. Without critically disrupting the narrative flow of the novel, the strategy of omission has resulted in speeding up the narrative development, tightening up its mounting tension and suspense, and enhancing readers’ reception of the cruel tragedy of human evil, all in accordance with crime fiction convention, which also demonstrates the priority of genre characteristics in translation over general convention of literary translation practice.

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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Translation of Differences: Lost in Translation, Found in Translation