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The White Book
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2018 International Longlist > The White Book by Han Kang

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message 1: by Maxwell (last edited Mar 12, 2018 09:54AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Maxwell (welldonebooks) | 375 comments Mod
This is a discussion thread for The White Book by Han Kang.

Barbara (barbara_63) | 29 comments I liked but did not love "The Vegetarian," so I started "The White Book" apprehensively. It's an absolute masterpiece. In fact, I struggled to place it in any straightforward category: is it poetry? A memoir? I have not read any of the others yet but I hope they are half as good as "The White Book."

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) I liked the Vegetarian, thought Human Acts was brilliant and this tops both. Only 6 out of 13 read so far but I will be surprised if this isn't my top choice.

I had the considerable pleasure of hearing Han Kang read from it in Korean with her publisher, the author Max Porter, reading from the English - sublime.

My review

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer I would largely agree on the merits of the book - but realistically can a prize which is designed to highlight the diversity of literature around the world really go to the same author/translator for 2 of the 3 years for which is has operated as a prize for translated literature.

I would have preferred to see Deborah Smith longlisted as a publisher.

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Yes, agreed on both counts.

Although Korean literature is far stronger than US literature and the latter has won 2/3 Anglophone Bookers.

Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... Can any of you direct me to where I can buy this book? It isn't available at my library, even through ILL. And it isn't on Amazon.

message 7: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (modica03) I can’t find it either. I haven’t looked at Book Depository but it takes 3 weeks for them to get books to the US.

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Yes looks as if the hardback may have sold out in the UK, the paperback is due in May and and it has not yet been published in US. Available on kindle but that would be a shame as it is a lovely book physically

Abebooks have it

message 9: by Bartleby (new) - added it

Bartleby (bartlebyscrivener) It can be bought on kindle @ amazon, if that helps :)

message 10: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (modica03) Gabriel Amazon (US) doesn’t show it available on Kindle either. I’ll look on my kindle itself.

message 11: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (modica03) I checked again and it’s not available on Kindle.

message 12: by Marian (new) - added it

Marian (marianese) | 6 comments Fwiw, it's available on Amazon Germany, which has an option for reading in English. Select English books as the category/dept. Got mine last night in a Berlin English bookshop (hardcover). Just dipped in so far but I think I'll be very taken with it.

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Bartleby (bartlebyscrivener) Oh, I'm sorry Stacey. Weirdly on Amazon BR it is available, the English translation. I thought it'd be available everywhere...

message 14: by Wen (new) - added it

Wen (wensz) Can’t find the book here so read vegetarian as a prep. Liked the idea and the beauty but not sure how to articulate. Wonder if this one is similar? Also how do you guys who have read Vegetarian feel about the lost in translation debate on the media specifically around Smith’ translation errors and her elevation of the original prose?

message 15: by Paul (last edited Mar 22, 2018 09:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) On the translation issue - well all one can say is that the author and translator both admit there were errors, but the author was very happy with the book - which also won the MBI - and has chosen to work with Smith (and work more closely) on her later works.

Smith's own response here

The White Book is very different - sparse prose poetry

message 16: by Wen (new) - added it

Wen (wensz) Paul wrote: "On the translation issue - well all one can say is that the author and translator both admit there were errors, but the author was very happy with the book - which also won the MBI - and has chosen..."

An article would spark a discussion here on itself. Thanks Paul for the link. "judges “aren’t comparing the original and the translation and evaluating the process (the decisions, the ingenuities, the slips…) of going from the one to the other,” but are attempting “to evaluate the finished English-language work on their own terms." I see.

message 17: by Paul (last edited Mar 23, 2018 04:16AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Wen wrote: ""judges “aren’t comparing the original and the translation and evaluating the process (the decisions, the ingenuities, the slips…) of going from the one to the other,” but are attempting “to evaluate the finished English-language work on their own terms.""

Worth adding for those who haven't read the article that that quote isn't from Smith but from Daniel Hahn, an award winning translator plus a judge of the 2017 MBI

This is his full article explaining how one judges a translation prize

And yes I certainly hope that is what judges do, and it is what I do when I read a translation as rarely can I actually read the original (oddly Korean being one slight exception).

message 18: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Couple of other quotes from that Hahn article which I would strongly endorse.

Talking of his experience as a IFFP (old MBI) judge:

We judges/assessors are reading literary works in English, and choosing the one we believe to be the best. Which of these English-language novels is the best English-language novel. The assumption we make—and I think it’s a safe one—is that a supremely good work in English translation will be evidence of writing and translating both of the highest of standard.

If something is below par, we don’t try impossibly to tease out whether it’s a great bit of translation let down by some poor bone structure underneath, or whether it’s a dead, tin-ear translation behind which we can almost glimpse traces of what was once probably an interesting novel. Either way: not good enough.

and as an Impac Prize judge - one that sensibly treats translations and non-translations on equal terms (and which Hahn himself has subsequently won):

So it was with the IMPAC Dublin, for which we judges read 142 novels (that was a looong summer), of which about a third were translations and the rest English-language originals. At our judging meetings, we didn’t talk about the translations any differently from the rest.

and this on the very existence of the MBI

Prizes that isolate translations from the mainstream (just as, say, prizes that isolate books only written by women) seem to me to have great value as long as they can usefully contribute to what one might call a kind of market engineering - helping to persuade publishers, critics or readers to value books of type X more than they currently do. They are potentially powerful interventions, but to my mind their aim should be a mainstreaming success for their category of books that’s so great as to make themselves redundant.

For now, at least, I’d argue that we will still benefit substantially from a prize that draws attention – specifically, exclusively – to great international writing. I’m delighted that prize is going to be a Man Booker gong: a major award to celebrate the best translated-into-English novel, on a par with a major prize to celebrate the best written-in-English novel. It may be just what the literary world needs.

But eight or 10 years from now, I hope we’ll need something quite different. Ideally, by that point we’d have a mature international market in the UK, in which the Booker prize foundation would open the borders of its original prize to welcome foreign books, and also reverse today’s change: in other words, offering simply a Man Booker prize for a book, and a Man Booker prize for a career, each of them open to everyone, regardless of original language

message 19: by Neil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil | 511 comments I read this today: it is short enough to read in one sitting (quite easily, in fact). But it is, as mentioned several times above, wonderful. I agree with the comments that it seems unlikely that the prize could go for the same author/translator combination 2 out of 3 times, but that doesn't stop it from being my favourite of the 6 I've read so far.

message 20: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Oddly Vegetarian is the weakest of the three Han Kang-Deobrah Smith books I have read (albeit still very good).

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer I would agree on that.

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