Anton Hur

Writer, translator

Annus Mirabilis

The following is the translation of a speech I gave this December, representing the graduating LTI Korea Academy Ateliers of 2017. It was originally delivered in Korean.

First, I would like to thank the tireless people at the LTI Korea Academy who do so much work on our behalf, from coordinating the demands of all of the graduates you see here to staying up at work until late at night to collect our attendance sheets. Thank you so much for everything you do for us.

2017 was an amazing year for the English-language Atelier program. Sung Ryu, Slin Jung, and I won LTI grants. Sophie Bowman and I also won PEN grants, and our professor Sora Kim-Russell and I both won Daesan Foundation grants for fiction this year. Unfortunately, our very own Agnel Joseph snatched up the biggest prize of the year, the GKL Grand Prize, leaving the rest of us rather bereft. Lastly, I was also asked to teach at the Ewha University Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation beginning this fall.

The reason why I’m telling you this is to make a point: this summer, I had quit literary translation. There was no progress, no future, and I was even almost ripped off by a malicious fraudster. Plus, I had just graduated from a coding boot camp and was working as a programmer in a tech company, and was tying up the loose ends of my translation career.

But I’m standing here today because just after I had retired from the profession, almost all the good things I told you that happened to me this year had come in a rush in the space of a week. Do bear in mind that I started at the LTI Academy in 2009, and it’s only next year, in 2018, that my first translated books will be published.

I don’t believe in what we Koreans call “hope-torture.” I only wanted to give you my personal perspective of this industry. To be honest, not all of you will become literary translators. In fact, some of you shouldn’t be literary translators. And that’s fine. You can learn JavaScript and make lots of money. I can even recommend a good boot camp.

But for those of you who must become literary translators: know that you have to have long-term perspective. Don’t just pick any project at random, pick something you feel really passionate about, because you’ll be stuck with it for a long time. And if something bad happens, which it will, shake it off as quickly as possible. Cultivate a far-seeing perspective.

Because translating one book and getting it published is almost easy. Most translators do just one book and disappear forever. It’s only after your second book that you can really call yourself a literary translator. Be in it for the long run.

It’s a long game. Fair play to those who stick around. “Good luck. And don’t. Fuck it up.”

Thank you.

About Me

I am a writer and translator working in Seoul. I was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and raised in British Hong Kong, Ethiopia, and Thailand, but mostly in Korea, where I’ve lived for thirty years. I was awarded the title of Person of Distinguished Service to the Nation after serving in the Korean Army. Repped by Jon Wood at RCW.

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