With only one day left of 2020, my last Korean reading project of this year has come to an end. In total, I’ve managed to read 12 Korean novels this year. This averages one per month, and I guess that’s not all bad considering the amount of Korean text and grammar books that I’ve also read or re-read.
The last book project I’ve finished this year is a compilation of five contemporary Korean novels from the K-fiction series that I purchased through the TTMIK bookstore. The books are bilingual with the original Korean on one page and the English translation on the next. This has been a great way to practice reading faster without the unwanted distraction of looking up new words. Instead, I could simply just look at the opposite page and find the English translation. I never thought about bilingual books before but for a language learner this is an ideal way to familiarize yourself with modern literature in your target language. I’m all for getting under the skin of a culture through literature, and these five books make the task much less daunting and more enjoyable.
The five books from the series curated by the TTMIK team are:
시차 Time difference: A young Korean woman is asked by her mother to entertain her estranged cousin who after having been adopted to Amsterdam returns to Korea as an adult.
4월의 눈 Snow in April: A young married couple on the brink of divorce find new hope for the future and common purpose in the arrival of an airbnb guest from Finland.
어디로 가고싶으신가요 Where would you like to go?: A newly widowed woman finds refuge in a small Scottish cottage after having lost her school teacher husband in the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry in April 2016. She finds an unexpected companion in iPhone’s Siri.
그 여름 That summer: Two high school girls in a small village start a sparkling romance but moving to Seoul together to pursue their dreams proves a challenge to their relationship.
할로윈 Halloween: A woman inherits her grandmother’s clothing store at a local market and discovers unknown sides of her late grandmother and of herself.
I greatly enjoyed all of them, although Where would you like to go? is probably my favorite. It really spoke to me, and the original as well as the translation was very moving.
I read the books in a way where I first read the Korean version and then only consulted the English version if there were parts I was unsure of. In most cases I did read the entire version in English after having completed the Korean. It was a really interesting insight into literary translation and a great vocabulary builder in general. As I read through the Korean version, I would underline any word that was new to me and then underline the corresponding or phrase in the English translation. This made it a real breeze to write down review notes in my notebook.
Here are a few pictures of my handwritten notes:
I like to review my notes from time to time as I find that it helps me remember the new words and phrases more easily. There’s also something therapeutic about writing things down with colorful pens.
If you’re eager to try reading Korean literature, I highly recommend these short novels. I only wish I could buy more books from the series (there are about 30 books in total) but all the places I’ve found so far don’t ship to the EU. For now, I’ve put a few titles on my “to buy when in Seoul” list.
As for reading projects for 2021, I already have several book titles lined up. I recently started reading a cute book called 내 문장이 그렇게 이상한가요? which is written by a professional editor and proofreader. It discusses common mistakes in written Korean and how to fix them. So far I find it both useful and entertaining.
Since we’re almost at the end of 2020 I want to wish you all a happy (and healing) new year! 새해 복 많이 받으세요!