Case study: Deborah Smith
Learn Korean, found specialist small press, win Man Booker International Prize

Deborah’s translations from the Korean include two novels by Han Kang, The Vegetarian (winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize) and Human Acts, and two by Bae Suah, A Greater Music and Recitation. In 2015 Deborah completed a PhD at SOAS on contemporary Korean literature and founded Tilted Axis Press. In 2016 she won the Arts Foundation Award for Literary Translation. She tweets as @londonkoreanist. 

In 2012, two years after I’d started learning Korean with the dream of becoming a literary translator, I was asked to do a sample translation of Han Kang’s novel The Vegetarian, by a publisher who’d received it from her agent Barbara Zitwer. At the time, I was too mortified to explain that, though I’d optimistically put ‘Literary Translator from Korean’ as my bio, I hadn’t yet attempted to even read an entire book, much less translate one. A year later, though, my skills had improved sufficiently for me to make the most of Korea’s being chosen as the market focus country for the London Book Fair, where I first met Max Porter, Kang’s wonderful editor at Portobello Books.

I met representatives from WCN [now the National Centre for Writing] at the London Book Fair and attended the 

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