The Korea Herald


Translators of ‘Yi Sang: Selected Works’ receiveMLA award

By Park Ga-young

Published : Dec. 13, 2021 - 21:31

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”Yi Sang: Selected Works,” published by Wave Books (Wave Books) ”Yi Sang: Selected Works,” published by Wave Books (Wave Books)

A team behind the translation of “Yi Sang: Selected Works” received a literary translation award from the US-based Modern Literature Association, the Literature Translation Institute of Korea said Monday.

This is the first time the award has been given for a work of Korean literature, according to LTI Korea, which sponsored the book‘s translation and publication.

Jack Jung, a visiting assistant professor of English at Davidson College, Sawako Nakayasu, an assistant professor of literary arts at Brown University, poet Don Mee Choi of Seattle and Joyelle McSweeney, a professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, were awarded the MLA’s 17th Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Literary Work. The prize is doled out annually for translations into English of book-length literary works.

“(Yi Sang’s) writing combines fable, fantasy, satire, parody, Dadaism, concrete poetry, and quasi-translation and presents a steep challenge to the translators. But Jack Jung, Sawako Nakayasu, Don Mee Choi, and Joyelle McSweeney -- themselves experienced practitioners of experimental poetry -- took the job to heart and have re-created in English Yi Sang’s terse, polyglot, self-undermining, dreamlike parables and essays, first published in Korean and Japanese and then subjected to the hazards of war and neglect,” MLA said in an announcement last week.

“Yi Sang: Selected Works,” published by Wave Books in 2020, contains 49 poems, six essays and two short novels, as well as 12 poems written in Japanese.

Yi Sang was a painter, architect, poet and writer in the 1930s, writing in both Korean and Japanese. He died of tuberculosis at the early age of 27 in 1937, after imprisonment in Tokyo for thought crimes.