When Deborah Smith, Translator of Han Kang's The Vegetarian, Won the Man Booker International Prize
When chair of the judging panel, Boyd Tonkin, announced Han Kang and Deborah Smith as the winners of the prize for their novel The Vegetarian (Portobello Books, 2015), a very composed but smiling Han Kang kissed her publisher on the cheek, stood up, hugged Smith, and waited to be called up on stage. Smith, her translator, broke down in tears, and she was still crying when she received her award. By the time Kang took to the podium to give her half of their acceptance speech, her translator was drying her eyes and controlling her by now dry heaves. “Don’t cry,” Kang said softly into the microphone, her head turned towards Deborah.
It was a tender moment, and one that also shone a light on the two different relationships born out of translation: your relationship to your author, and your relationship to your book. Because a translation is always your book –it is yours and the author’s book, as new Man Booker International Prize money split openly recognizes MORE