Our fishy friend – on ‘The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher’ by Ahn Do-hyun

Our fishy friend – on ‘The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher’ by Ahn Do-hyun
The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher
 

Title: The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher (Pan, 2015) 

Author: Ahn Do-hyun

Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith

When I find a novel I like the look of I usually delve straight in, sometimes without even a glance at the blurb or end papers, if it has been passed to me due to word of mouth recommendation. Imagine my surprise then, after reading ‘The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher’ and choosing to review it for the wonderful Rookery, a site dedicated to translated fiction, that not a single mention is given to the actual translator of this novella! I had to do some digging around on the Internet to find that it was Deborah Smith who worked her magic to bring us the English version. I think this is a real failing as, to me, Smith has done a wonderful job, the prose flowing and lyrical rather than stilted and lacking a certain ‘je ne sais quois’ that some translated works can. The author of the book, Ahn Do-hyun, is a celebrated, award winning Korean poet. This is his first novel to be translated into English and after reading it was no shock at all to find out that poetry is the medium he calls home, each sentence filled with sumptuous descriptions that dance on your tongue, so for Smith to manage to retain this feeling she should really be applauded and given her dues in print.

Salmon Leaping by Kman999

The novella itself actually falls into the tradition of a fable that can be read by both younger and older readers. We find a shoal of salmon about to make their perilous journey from the sea, fighting their way back up stream to finally find a resting place to lay their eggs and die. One of these Salmon immediately stands out due to his dashing looks, he is completely covered in silver scales, unlike those around him who only have a dash of silver on their belly. Unlike in our human world, his striking appearance does not make life any easier for him as he is shunned by the rest of the shoal, they are bitter about his looks and the extra work he causes as he makes them much more visible to hunters as he gleams in the sunlight. Desperate to be at one with his travelling pack he begs

‘Please try to look past my scales,’ he said to his fellow salmon. ‘I want you to look inside my heart’

We follow our silver salmon as he not only makes this journey to his final resting place, but also as he questions the world around him, such a small creature posing some of the great philosophical questions of the day. There is a real charm and simplicity in the answers he finds both through his own experiences and the conversations he has with friends and foes he makes along the way. You often find yourself nodding along as you are presented with messages about what really matters in our lives. There is a strong theme running through this novella about the environment, how the natural world all links together as one, and how we need to be wary of the harm we can do as powerful humans.

I really enjoyed my time spent with our fishy friend, and although I worried at one point that the ‘lessons to take home’ were going to be laid on a bit thick by the end, I found that Do-hyun gets away with this due to the beautiful language that flows from his fingers…and let’s not forget Deborah Smith’s too!

By Danielle Culling

About Danielle,

A voracious reader, if you felled her like a tree you would find rings and rings made up of all the fiction she has consumed in her lifetime. Accused in junior school of lying about how many books she was reading per week, her mother took to her defence and the unlimited access to the library that followed was the beginning of a dedicated relationship with literature. Working as a bookseller now, Danielle also reviews all forms of the printed word over on www.dogeared-reads.com.

The identity-quakes of migration: on ‘Signs Preceding the End of the World’ by Yuri Herrera

The identity-quakes of migration: on ‘Signs Preceding the End of the World’ by Yuri Herrera

Signs preceding

 

Title: Signs Preceding the end of the World (And Other Stories, 2015)

Author: Yuri Herrera

Translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman

There’s something of a communal crush going on at The Rookery, with Mr Yuri Herrera as a current household idol. Adam attended an event with Herrera and Julia Rochester at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (read about that here), and came back eager to get his hands on the translation of Signs… For various reasons I cut the queue, got hold of the book first, and have spent the last few Trowbridge – Bath commutes going along for a journey that could hardly be further removed, on buses and on foot along squalid streets and through hallucinatory, arid landscapes, where language itself is a smoke curtain, changing every truth behind it. Read the rest of this entry

The core and the landscape – a dispatch from Crossing Borders

The core and the landscape – a dispatch from Crossing Borders
The Edinburgh International Book Festival in Charlotte Square Gardens

The Edinburgh International Book Festival in Charlotte Square Gardens by Alan McCredie Photography

When? 

Wed 19 Aug 5:00pm – 6:00pm

Where? 

Writers’ Retreat, Charlotte Square Gardens, as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival

The books: 

Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera, Translated by Lisa Dillman, Published by And Other Stories, 3rd March 2015

The House at the End of the World, by Julia Rochester, Published by Penguin, 4th June 2015.

Julia Rochester credit Jochen Braun

Julia Rochester photo credit Jochen Braun

 

Crossing Borders managed to fulfill the promise of its title, bringing together two very different authors and successfully initiating a conversation which brought out both commonalities and divergences in their work.

Julia Rochester hails from Devon, Yuri Herrera from Mexico, and on the stage they cut figures which reflected this – Rochester a pale brunette in a flower print dress, exuding the prim no-nonsense aura of a high-school English teacher; Herrera sporting a closely shaved head, intellectual glasses and that serious look engraved on émigré writers who’ve witnessed things we’ll never quite understand.

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The general and the specific – a dispatch from a Spanish Translation Duel

The general and the specific – a dispatch from a Spanish Translation Duel
The Edinburgh International Book Festival in Charlotte Square Gardens

The Edinburgh International Book Festival in Charlotte Square Gardens by Alan McCredie Photography

 

When? Thursday August 20th, 3.45 pm

Where? Baillie Guifford Corner Theatre, Charlotte Square Gardens as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival

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‘Fencing Duel’ by uwdigitalcollections under Creative Commons license

The word ‘duel’ suggests a few things to me. One is two wills (with or without guns or swords) at odds with each other, and two, that something (a trophy? Honour?) can be won. A duel, at least, must mean a competition of some sort, with an element of antagonism and suspense. The EIBF has included Translation Duels part of the programme for some time now, and judging from the turn-out for Thursday’s Spanish version they’re also quite popular.

Entering the venue, Spanish speakers and non-speakers alike were handed  a print-out of a story by Mexican author Yuri Herrera (whose event on the Wednesday we’ll cover in our next blog post), along with two English versions of the same text, written by Rosalind Harvey and Ollie Brock. Chairing the event, Daniel Hahn began by asking a question which, considering the packed venue, may have seemed superfluous: why a translation duel? ‘Whenever we’re at festivals and events we talk about translation issues in general. These events are an opportunity to talk about these things specifically, with specific examples.’ Specificity and detail, it would turn out, were certainly the two key words of the day. Read the rest of this entry

A little prison of your own: The Helmet of Horror by Victor Pelevin

A little prison of your own: The Helmet of Horror by Victor Pelevin

so many books

Translated by Andrew Bromfield

Published by Canongate Books

The Canongate Myth series was launched so that contemporary authors could try their hand at a modern re-telling of an ancient tale, and though this idea of myth riffing excites me a lot, I’ve read shamefully few books from their roster. I finished Dubravka Ugrešić’s Baba Yaga Laid an Egg so long ago that I don’t recall much of it, and I’m currently only halfway through Philip Pulman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. That said, Victor Pelevin’s Helmet of Horror stands out in my developing perception of the series because it feels particularly radical and inventive, both in its format and its transposition of the original story. It’s as if the author was determined to push his brief as far as it could possibly go.

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