Lost in (mis)translation? English take on Korean novel has critics up in arms

A row over Han Kang’s award-winning novella The Vegetarian highlights the unavoidable difficulties of importing a novel from a very different language – but literal translation too often results in poor books

Another week, another round in what I shall henceforth refer to as Han Kang-gate – though Smith-field might be more accurate, evoking the London meat market, since the centre of this literary scandal is not the Korean writer but her English translator.

It began last summer in the New York Review of Books, when the writer Tim Parks laid into Deborah Smith’s translation of The Vegetarian. He professed himself mystified that it had won the Man Booker International prize, when “the prose is far from an epitome of elegance, the drama itself neither understated nor beguiling, the translation frequently in trouble with register and idiom.”

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Gail Honeyman: ‘I didn’t want Eleanor Oliphant to be portrayed as a victim’

The Costa award-winning debut novelist on the kindness of Glasgow and becoming a full-time writer in her 40s

Gail Honeyman arrives in London trailing a wheelie-case, having travelled from Glasgow on a plane that was supposed to leave at 7am, but was delayed by the freezing weather. As we take the escalator up to liberate her of the case for a photocall, we muse on the peculiarity of a –7C ground frost stranding a plane which regularly flies at air temperatures of –40C.

In ways that only those who have found themselves sucked into her award-winning debut novel will truly understand, this is an Eleanor Oliphant moment: it enfolds a stressful experience, stoically borne, in the beady intelligence of a woman who is rarely seen in public without a trolley-bag. The comparison has less to do with Honeyman herself than with the capacity of her writing to make everything seem a little ...

Diana Athill: ‘Enjoy yourself as much as you can without doing any damage to other people’

The former editor on regrets, the advantages of old age and why she’s still writing at 100

A few days before her 100th birthday, Diana Athill is embarking on a new literary adventure. She has agreed to do a live webchat, answering questions from her fans in a digital present tense that barely existed when she finally decided to go into a retirement home eight years ago, let alone when she entered the publishing profession some 70 years earlier.

Her answers are characteristically splendid. On the pleasures of rereading: “Losing your memory has its advantages because sometimes you can pick up a book and not remember you’ve read it at all, and lo and behold you have.” Best advice you would give a woman about to embark on her 30s? “I should advise her to have a very good love affair, if she hasn’t had one already.”

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Carol Drinkwater reveals sex attack by Hollywood director Elia Kazan

Rejecting the advances of a famous director cost the actor turned author the part of a lifetime. She explains why, 40 years on, she poured her shame and guilt into her latest novel, The Lost Girl

When the stories about Harvey Weinstein’s abusive behaviour began to pour out of the Hollywood closet, they stirred up painful memories for actor turned novelist Carol Drinkwater – so painful it has taken her four decades to speak out about them.

In an emotional Facebook post last week she wrote about being “very badly damaged in my 20s by a director as famous as HW, more so. It took me years to get over it ... I lost a mighty role because I would not play along, would not sleep with the director in question.”

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Harriet Paige: ‘I had this epic in my head, but found I couldn’t write like that’

The author of Man With a Seagull on His Head remembers the chances that led her to write the story of an outsider artist who becomes an accidental star What would happen if you lost the ability to erase memories? Harriet Paige could not forget this question, overheard on the radio many years ago as she “doing the housework or something”. It was the starting point for her debut novel, which hurls the problem at the head of a 40-year-old local council photocopying clerk. Ray Eccles lives in a small town “lolling out of the mouth of the Thames” on the Essex coast. During a day trip to a local beach, his life is transformed when a seagull falls on him from the sky, creating a strange reverse amnesia which fixes him for ever in that infinitely random moment.
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Dawkins sees off Darwin in vote for most influential science book

A public poll to mark 30 years of the Royal Society book prizes sees The Selfish Gene declared the most significant – with women authors left on the margins Debates about the most influential science book of all time habitually settle into a face-off between Darwin’s Origin of Species and Newton’s Principia Mathematica. But a poll to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Royal Society science book prize returned a more recent winner: Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene. Related: 'As long as we study life, it will be read': the Selfish Gene turns 40 Continue reading...

Daljit Nagra: ‘Poetry is an espresso shot of thought’

Radio 4’s poet in residence on his journey from school dropout to poetry prizewinnerDaljit Nagra remembers the moment his life changed course: it was when he rang home for his A-level results. He was a 21-year-old secondary school dropout from Sheffield who had spent a year at evening classes studying English, sociology and politics. “I didn’t expect to get good grades and when my brother read them out over the phone it was a complete shock.” He hadn’t presumed to apply for university, but his results were good enough to earn him a place in the clearing system. He took a train down to London for an interview at London University’s Royal Holloway College and was accepted to read English. It was the start of a journey that would lead two decades later to the winners’ podium at the Forward prizes, where he joined the great and the ...