There is a line in the first few pages of Hwang Sok-yong’s The Shadow of Arms that carries with it the brunt of the Vietnam War: “Just two weeks of carnage, of thirst and heat had transformed the fighting men into burnt-out tin cans.” Hwang’s language is unadorned and direct, his metaphor effective. It conveys a hollowness, of both body and spirit, that foreshadows the horrific military brutalities, the moral corruption, the soullessness wreaked by a hellish war and captured with staggering precision in the novel, based on Hwang’s experience as a Korean soldier contracted to fight for the Allied Forces. A “burnt-out tin can” can also be used to describe a translation; a text that has lost its soul, has lost its voice, in the process of being rendered into a new language, and all that remains of it is an empty shell. We were loath to let that happen to The Shadow of Arms, and took great pains to find the novel’s voice in English, scouring military dictionaries, reading dialogue aloud, comparing our translation as it developed against the French version, even delaying publication several times for the sake of getting it right. As translators and publishers of literature in translation, we have a greater responsibility than perhaps we often realize; we are pulling foreign writers, usually comfortable and celebrated in their own countries, into our local literary landscapes, and we are determining how their voices shall sound in our language, how they shall be perceived and therefore received by our readers. It’s an untold burden, and one we shoulder gladly because these voices deserve, and sometimes need, to be heard. That of Hwang Sok-yong, as this novel exemplifies, is one that should resound the world over.



E-Book (10)

Translated Books (96)

News from Abroad (194)

International Events (22)

Book Reviews (21)

Book Proposals (2)

Videos (14)