본문 바로가기
  • Home

Translating Translated Modernism: A Study on English Translation of Yi Sang’s Nalgae

Seong-Woo Choi 1

1연세대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This is a study on the “decontextualization” and “recontextualization” of Korean modernism by way of analyzing Yi Sang’s short story, Nalgae. It is a translation criticism paying attention to translational shifts considering their relevance in conveying the qualities of Korean modernism to the English-speaking readers. Yi Sang’s works are intertwined with Modernism and Korean colonial modernity. During the colonial times, Modernism was definitely imported from the West into Korea through Japan. Korean modernist writers, therefore, mimicked Western and Japanese modernisms, and consciously or unconsciously became ambivalent and mentally hybrid. Yi Sang’s literary works contain these features of Korean modernism—frequent use of foreign words, coined words written in Chinese characters, and literary forms borrowed from Japan, as well as resistance against traditions, trials of experimental techniques, and destruction of old literary forms. This study analyzes two English translations of Nalgae by comparing them with the original, in order to determine whether or not the translators were aware of the unique features of Korean modernism and how they tried to render them into English. It notes the existence of two schizophrenic narrators having different voices in the prologue and in the main story, and pays attention to its effects based on Korean modernism and colonial modernity. The analysis starts by dealing with the first sentence of the story, “‘박제가되어버린천재’를아시오 (Have you ever seen a ‘genius who became a stuffed specimen’?)” This study points out that “genius” refers to the first narrator in the prologue and “stuffed specimen” is the second narrator in the main story. Based on this premise, this study compares and analyzes the two English translated texts, focusing on how the two English versions convey the features of Korean modernism, particularly in revealing the divided self of Korean intellectuals in the colonial society of the 1930s. The schizophrenic nature of the narrator is unveiled through his style of speech and choice of words in Nalgae. The narrator employs distinctively different speech styles in the prologue and in the main story. The intellectual narrator in the prologue uses Sino-Korean and foreign words profusely while the spineless narrator in the main story uses childlike and commonplace words. However, toward the end of the story, he gradually revives the other self, and aches to soar with him towards the ideal world. The divided self with two different voices implies the intellectuals’ ambivalent and hybrid identities frustrated as they are in colonial Korea. Most of the shifts in the English translations seem to have stemmed from the translators’ lack of awareness of the existence of the two narrators or insufficient understanding about the narrators’ characters although the translators have adequate knowledge of Korean and English vocabulary and usages. The Korean readers notice the two different voices through the use of different vocabulary and speech or writing styles in the prologue and in the main story, but the translators seem to have little paid attention to distinctions between the first and the second narrators’ word preferences.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.