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Translation and Critical Analysis of Bae Suah’s “Towards Marzahn”
Annah Overly
EAASW3901: Senior Thesis
Thesis Adviser: ...
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Table	
  of	
  Contents	
  
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS	
  ............................................................................
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Acknowledgments
This thesis would it not be what it is today without the help of several people in
my life. I would firs...
4
Part One: Bae Suah1
and Contemporary Korean Literature
Who is Bae Suah?
Bae Suah was born in 1965 and graduated from Ewh...
5
included,” Bae has constructed a “world of dreams…through which lost voices drift”
(Bae, 2013, 113, 115). These small sa...
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the chance to look back on modernity. Or, at least, this is what Lee Kwang-ho argues in
his article “Cultural Hybridity ...
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Part Two: “Towards Marzahn” and the Act of Translation
Translating “Towards Marzahn”
Bae Suah’s “Towards Marzahn” presen...
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Table 1. Comparison of Original Korean and Translation of a Sentence from Bae
Suah’s “Towards Marzahn” (116)
Original Ko...
Annah Overly Thesis
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Annah Overly Thesis

  1. 1. 1 Translation and Critical Analysis of Bae Suah’s “Towards Marzahn” Annah Overly EAASW3901: Senior Thesis Thesis Adviser: Theodore Hughes Graduate Student Adviser: Jon Kief December 11, 2014
  2. 2. 2 Table  of  Contents   ACKNOWLEDGMENTS  .....................................................................................................................  3   PART ONE: BAE SUAH AND CONTEMPORARY KOREAN LITERATURE  ....................  4   WHO IS BAE SUAH?  ...............................................................................................................................................  4   PART TWO: “TOWARDS MARZAHN” AND THE ACT OF TRANSLATION  ..................  7   TRANSLATING “TOWARDS MARZAHN”  ..........................................................................................................  7   “TOWARDS MARZAHN” BY BAE SUAH  ........................................................................................................  10   PART THREE: CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF “TOWARDS MARZAHN”  ..............................  37   REFERENCES  ......................................................................................................................................  46  
  3. 3. 3 Acknowledgments This thesis would it not be what it is today without the help of several people in my life. I would first like to thank my Korean professors, Lee Beom, Carol Schulz, and Yi Hyunkyu at Columbia for the continuous support of my study of Korean. Secondly, to Jon Kief, PhD candidate at Columbia, who was assigned to help me along this journey and helped me first choose to translate “Towards Marzahn” and then encouraged me through the writing process. I would like to thank the faculty at Barnard’s Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures Department for their advising. To my friends, for always comforting me and being there for me. And lastly, to my parents, for their belief in me and support in my studies. Thank you to you all.
  4. 4. 4 Part One: Bae Suah1 and Contemporary Korean Literature Who is Bae Suah? Bae Suah was born in 1965 and graduated from Ewha Womens University in Seoul with a degree in Chemistry. After working for years as a government employee at the embarkation/disembarkation desk at the Gimpo International Airport, she had her literary debut with the short story “A Dark Room in the Year 1988.” Since then, Bae has gone on to publish twelve novels, seven short story collections, and one collection of essays. Between 2001 and 2002, Bae left her job and moved to Germany in order to study German. She has now translated a few works from German into Korean, such as Martin Walser’s Angstblüt (“Bae Suah: PEN World Voices Festival”). In 2003, she was awarded the Hankook Ilbo Literary Prize and in 2004 received the Dongseo Literary Prize. Bae Suah’s work has been widely critically acclaimed for its unconventionality and unfixed nature. In the bilingual edition of Time in Gray (Hoesaek Si) translated by Chang Chung-hwa and Andrew James Keast, a section is included that provides excerpts of past literary criticism. Shin Su-jeong remarks that Bae’s fiction is not “simple kitsch” but “sail clear of the national and the ideological, and even of literary tradition,” an action which makes the stories into “fiction” (Bae, 2013, 109, 111). Kim Sa-gwa sees Bae’s turn towards essay-format stories as a way to “give substance to the enormous void set between the world of her personal reality in Berlin and the Korean world of her readers,” and now “as a symptom of her resolute solitude and departure from reality, her own 1 “Author Database: Suah Bae,” Literature Translation Institute of Korea, accessed November 29, 2014, http://klti.or.kr/ke_04_03_011.do
  5. 5. 5 included,” Bae has constructed a “world of dreams…through which lost voices drift” (Bae, 2013, 113, 115). These small samplings of acclaim for Bae’s work share an appreciation for the new directions that Bae is pushing literature in contemporary Korea. In her interview with Bae Suah, Deborah Smith asked whether she thought that the move to Germany had influenced Bae to become more experimental with her work (Smith 2014). Bae replied that “the experience of going to Germany and living there on my own… really brought home to me that loneliness that is particular to writers,” which she believes “intensified” the changes her writing was going through (ibid.). She also comments on her earlier works, which she states she wrote “without any kind of writerly self-consciousness,” and has now started to pay more attention to as she tries to deepen the “fairytale-like atmosphere” (ibid.). Bae mentions that “What literary theorists say about literature doesn’t hold much appeal for me,” and that she focuses more on how we enjoy a text, rather than attributing it to a specific genre of writing (ibid.). She defines literature as “a way of mourning existence” since she believes that the sadness humans hold due to the fact that “they have to die…drives them to create literature” (ibid.). The focus on experimentation and exploration in her writing that Bae outlines here are important to consider while thinking about her place in the contemporary Korean literary scene, which is markedly different from the literature of twentieth century Korea. Discussions of Korean literature that was being written in the twentieth century are often confined to themes surrounding war memory and trauma that had their start during the Japanese occupation and through to the Korean War. But as generations of Koreans began to be born who had no living memory of a connection to North Korea and the political associations with literature began to diminish, Korean literature was given
  6. 6. 6 the chance to look back on modernity. Or, at least, this is what Lee Kwang-ho argues in his article “Cultural Hybridity in Contemporary Korean Literature” in which he discusses the changing literary landscape of twenty-first century South Korea. Lee asserts that “For the past one hundred years, [Korean literature] played the role of conducting social discourse and persistently pursued literary autonomy” (29). However, due to “the industrialization and democratization of Korean society” these roles were reduced and “its status in the cultural market was peripheralized as it competed with other new mass media” (Lee, 29). He refers to these new authors with the term “zero gravity.” Without the “political guilt” of generations past, these new writers were instead connected more in terms of their shared experiences of cultural texts than a sense of shared trauma (Lee, 31). Under these conditions set out by Lee that mark zero gravity writers in contrast to Korean writers of the twentieth century, Lee also states that this new generation of literature “came to try new forms and styles of speech,” which “can be understood to signify the beginning of a ‘different literature,’ instead of playing up a ‘death of literature’” (29). In Lee’s analysis of contemporary literature, echoes of Bae’s own style can be seen, first through his comments on the absence of a “shared historical experience,” and then through his discussion on the trend of the lack of an enlightened and confessional narrator within contemporary literature (Lee 30, 34). As a member of this new generation of zero gravity writers, Bae is both a unique and resounding voice in contemporary Korean literature.
  7. 7. 7 Part Two: “Towards Marzahn” and the Act of Translation Translating “Towards Marzahn” Bae Suah’s “Towards Marzahn” presents an interesting prospect to the reader and translator—a text written by a Korean author in Korean that takes place in a neighborhood of east Berlin. Within this foreign setting, Bae plays with the Korean language to emphasize the isolation and repetition of situations occurring within the text. At twenty-six pages in length, it took the better course of three months to write the full translation that is below as well as multiple revisions in order to make sure that each character’s voice contained the appropriate tone. The challenges faced specifically that I will talk about in this section dealt with determining the appropriate narrative voice and the repetition of sentence endings and phrases within dialogues. What is not readily apparent when one first begins reading “Towards Marzahn” in Korean is the absence of a bodied narrator. Nowhere in the text is the use of the first person pronoun used in Korean except when characters are in dialogue with each other. Similarly, while there are some judgments and suppositions made on the part of the narrative voice, there are no clues in the text that point to the narrator actually being an inhabitant of the apartment building. An example of one of these instances takes place during the description of the resident who often holds loud parties in his apartment. Table 1 shows a comparison of the original sentence in Korean, the Romanization, the basic translation, and the final translation. In most cases, the sentence construction ~(으)ㄴ 적이 있다/없다 (~(ŭ)n chŏki itta) is a way to talk about an experience a person has or has not had.
  8. 8. 8 Table 1. Comparison of Original Korean and Translation of a Sentence from Bae Suah’s “Towards Marzahn” (116) Original Korean Romanization Korean-English First Translation Final Translation 그의 얼굴을 본 적은 한 번도 없다. Kŭŭi ŏlkulŭl pon chŏkŭn han pŏnto ŏpta. There was never a time when his face had been seen. No one had ever seen his face. Source: Bae, Suah 배수아. Matchan panghyangŭro 마짠

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