Fidelity or infidelity?
The mistranslation controversy over
This article examines the controversy over The Vegetarian
), Deborah Smith’s English translation of Han Kang’s Korean novel,
(2007). The translation, winner of the Man Booker International Prize in 2016, provoked a heated discussion in South Korea. A close analysis of three influential articles – Cho (2017)
, B. Kim (2017)
, and W. Kim (2018)
– shows how the debates on the supposed mistranslation of The Vegetarian
are dominated by a preoccupation with fidelity and literal translation. They dismiss the translator’s interpretation or transformation, regarding accuracy or fidelity as the sole criterion for a good translation. Significantly, the critics’ advocacy of literal translation, and hence their objections to The Vegetarian
, reflect three levels of political anxiety: over ‘superior’ translation, over ‘English’ translation, and over a female translator’s ‘feminist’ translation.
- 2.Translation criticism, national literatures, and fidelity in the debates about The Vegetarian
- 3.Political anxieties behind the controversy