What place did translation have in the making of modern literature? And how might our understanding of a nation’s literature change when approached through the lens of translation?
Heekyoung Cho, assistant professor in the University of Washington’s Department of Asian Languages and Literature, addresses such questions in her book, “Translation’s Forgotten History: Russian Literature, Japanese Mediation, and the Formation of Modern Korean Literature.”
Translation, Cho argues, was not supplementary but was essential to creating a national literature. That is “particularly visible” in East Asian literature from the late 19thand early 20th centuries, she said — a time when countries were “building a concept, canon, and language of national literature as part of establishing themselves as modern nations.”
Also, the public perception of translations has changed over time, she said; translators used to be “highly visible authors and public intellectuals and translation itself was not expected to be ‘faithful’ or invisible, as it is today.”