Kim Chun-su: Chalet 산장 (san jang) a translation

Daniel Paul Marshall’s brief but excellent glimpse into translation and its difficulties.

Daniel Paul Marshall

Kim Chun su Chalet (san jang)

i can’t take complete responsibility for this translation. My copy of the text is a dual one, with Korean on one side & English on the other. However, as i study more i am beginning to notice glaring errors, clear omissions that i think sully the complexity & completeness of the poems. Therefore i am doing what i think are more complete translations.

For example in this poem, the translator first of all completely omits the line beginning “in January…” well actually, he oddly, replaces it with “nothing happened to the sun & moon.” This has nothing in common with the text.
This may seem like the greatest error, but i was more intrigued by two other, much more poetic & subtle omissions, which i will do my best to explain.

the sun covered the hill all day long,
made red flowers dozily bloom.

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8 thoughts on “Kim Chun-su: Chalet 산장 (san jang) a translation

  1. One of my primary philosophical objections to the translations and subsequent interpretations of ancient sacred texts is the nuance lost without the cultural frame of reference. Particularly when they purport to address such crucial life issues for adherents.
    I’ve missed these. They’re a bit over my head, but they make me get up on my mental tippy toes.

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          • Certainly. At least I will try. When you mentioned errors you found in the interpretations, I mentioned my own misgivings about translations, and interpretations of translations, by using sacred texts as.an example.
            My problem with the Gospels, for example, having lost much meaning and certainly nuance, from the original Aramaic.
            I enjoy the translations because of the limitation of the original languages. Your example in your comment of “chuckle” being written as the wind laughing like a child is great!

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            • i get you now. thanks for the clarification. yes there are limits in Korean; not if you write in the usual mood of the Korean poet from that time. i like other poets of Chun-su’s generation, but they are much more austere. Chun-su shines for me in that he doesn’t take life, himself or literature for that matter as serious as his peers. this may have something to do with his more comfortable & affluent family life, whereas other poets of his time, Kim Chi-ha, Chan Sang pyeon, Shin Kyeong-rim, all were poor, lived with the poor, or even suffered torture by their own government or Japan for not conforming politically; for Sang-pyeong it was infertility.

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    • i would tell to maintain that vigilance, but in my circumstance i have done this as i think Chun-su is limited by his language: Korean isn’t a lyrical language & you only find a release from the firmness of the language in onomatopoeia, which let’s say in my use of the word ‘chuckle’ for laugh has no relative in Chun-su’s era. if he was writing now he might put ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ, which would look very odd if altered into a verb & is really just a version of the Korean lol.
      Chun-su was quite different from other writers of his time, he is playful & there is a nonsensical atmosphere to his work, which was a conscious choice of his. but Korean isn’t really prepared for his sort of writing, it isn’t rife with synonyms; if he wanted to get near to something like ‘chuckle’ he’d have to use a simile, the wind laughed like a child.
      in short i chose to use lyrical language to approach the light hearted, almost nursery rhyme aspect of Chun-su’s poetry. but your observation is accurate, this is not a true rendering, unless my suspicions of Chun-su’s subjective leanings are correct. which i’ll probably never prove.
      much obliged to you for reading.

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