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[Herald Interview] Farrar, Straus and Giroux looking for next ‘Parasite’

US, UK publishers seek next Korean literary gems, emphasize vital role of translators

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Sept. 21, 2023 - 19:49

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Publishers, literary agents and officials participate in the 2023 K-Literature Fellowship. (LTI Korea) Publishers, literary agents and officials participate in the 2023 K-Literature Fellowship. (LTI Korea)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, a part of Macmillan USA, boasts an impressive portfolio of Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning titles.

Rohan Kamicheril, a senior editor at FSG, said the company has yet to feature a Korean writer and hopes to broaden its literary horizon by discovering new Korean voices.

“We want to find writers in other parts of the world who are doing challenging, provocative things,” said Kamicheril.

“I don't want to just bring over writers who do something similar to what other American writers are doing, but to find new writers who are doing things differently but still tap into something about Korean culture.”

The editor said he is not limited to particular genres or sales indicators.

“Those are good reasons to pay extra attention to, but ultimately the thing that you have to look at is the book.”

“I wouldn’t want to just come in as an American editor saying, ‘This is what I want.’ Ideally, you find something that is a halfway between something that will feel familiar to win the American audience and something that says something true about Korean culture.”

For translated books, the editor stressed the importance of presenting Korean culture to American audiences in a manner that is both authentic and relatable. He drew parallels with the Oscar-winning film “Parasite,” which became “a phenomenon in the US because it speaks about a lot of things that Koreans are going through, and still speaks to a lot of people in America -- of class division and equality.”

“Just because something is different or a little challenging, it doesn't mean we should give up,” Kamicheril said, pointing out that it is the publisher’s job to open readers’ eyes to something new.

“It's really about showing people similarities and something that they hadn't realized before. It's about introducing readers to what they didn't know they wanted yet.”

The K-Literature Fellowship, an initiative organized by the Literature Translation Institute of Korea to promote Korean literature overseas, has been bringing international publishers and literary agents to Seoul since 2018.

Over 70 global publishing companies have participated in the program so far, resulting in the publication of some 100 Korean literary works worldwide.

This year, the fellowship invited 15 publishing houses from 11 countries to Seoul, where they joined 14 Korean publishers and agents for networking opportunities and copyright discussions Sept. 7-11.