Originally written in Korean, Jung Young-moon’s musings about his trip to San Francisco have been translated into English and will be the subject of Dalkey Archive Press’ first author event in Victoria.
Jung will read from “A Contrived World” and discuss Korean literature at 7 p.m. June 17 at the University of Houston-Victoria Center for the Arts, 204 N. Main St. The event is free and open to the public.
Dalkey Archive Press, an internationally renowned nonprofit literary organization, moved its publishing operations in August from Champaign, Ill., to UHV. The press publishes about 50 books a year with an emphasis on translations from more than 40 countries. Dalkey plans to regularly hold public events featuring the work of its authors.
“Jung is a good starting point because he’s translated a lot of works and straddles the line of Eastern and Western culture,” said Jake Snyder, Dalkey Archive Press associate director. “He understands both traditions.”
“A Contrived World” recounts the author’s visit to San Francisco. While the novel is based on real experiences, Jung’s imaginative reflections cause the narrative to balloon into the realms of fiction and fantasy. The fusion of observation and invention disrupts the conventions of personal memoir and travel writing, resulting in a chronicle that sets fiction against experience.
“Once, I was strolling alongside the marina near AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants, when I saw a hat floating in the water,” Jung writes in the book. “It was in motion despite the fact that there was no wind and the water was calm. I soon discovered that a seal was tapping the hat from below the water’s surface. It was a Giants hat, and the seal was undoubtedly an avid Giants fan. As if to demonstrate what a fan he was, the seal nudged his head into the hat, and jumped slightly out of water wearing the hat and then dove under the water to swim away.”
In another part of the book, Jung notices someone carving a woman’s name in the sand at the beach. Later, on an impulse, he destroys it.
“He starts feeling really remorseful,” Snyder said. “He’s wondering if he did something to kill this tribute of undying love. Basically, the book is something happens and then he thinks about it. And the humor is his perceptions of different situations. The book has an earnest tone, so all the humor is between the lines.”
Published originally in 2011, “A Contrived World” won the 2012 Han Moo-suk Literary Award, the Dong-in Literary Award and the Daesan Literary Award. The book was translated in 2015 into English by Jeffrey Karvonen and Mah Eunji.
Jung is a novelist, short-story writer, translator, playwright and teacher. A native of Hamyang, South Korea, he made his literary debut in 1996 with the novel “A Man Who Barely Exists.” He has translated more than 40 English-language books into Korean. His short-story collection, “A Most Ambiguous Sunday,” also is available from Dalkey Archive Press as part of the Library of Korean Literature series.
The series, which Dalkey published in collaboration with the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, aims to introduce the intellectual and aesthetic diversity of contemporary Korean writing to English-language readers.
“We always knew we wanted to do a Korean series,” Snyder said. “We did a Japanese series for many years, and Korea was the country we wanted to do next. The books have been from the colonial period of the 1940s up to contemporaries in the early 2000s.”
Dalkey Archive Press is publishing 25 Korean novels and short story collections. The last seven books in the series will be published this fall. “A Contrived World” is the first work by one of the library of Korean writers published outside the series.
Jung will be in the U.S. promoting the book with stops planned in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston and the San Francisco area. At the Victoria event, he will open it to the audience for questions and discussion. “A Contrived World” can be purchased at the event, and Jung will autograph copies.
To learn more about the Dalkey Archive Press, visit www.dalkeyarchive.com.