Whether you are a lover of Korean literature or someone entirely unfamiliar it, Heinz Insu Fenkl’s new translation of Kim Man-Jung’s 17th-century masterpiece The Nine Cloud Dream, recently published by Penguin, will be a revelation. Unlike earlier translators, such as James Scarth Gale and Richard Rutt, Fenkl attempts to recreate the experience of the novel’s first readers. This approach is fraught with difficulties because The Nine Cloud Dream, Korea’s most famous and best-loved work, was set in the China of almost a millennium before its composition and written in Chinese. According to the translator, that makes his task analogous to translating a 19th-century Russian work set in medieval France and written in Old French.

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