It goes without saying that an understanding of language is essential for any writer, but to be a translator, whose job it is to make literature accessible worldwide, requires a mastery of language that is oft-overlooked. Translating a work of fiction or poetry is about so much more than just converting the words to a different language. In order to truly capture the essence of the original, the translator must have a deep understanding of the nuances of both the initial text, and the language they are translating it into.

In this fascinating event journalist, Boyd Tonkin, will talk with writers and translators who have experienced the role of translation first-hand. Join poet and author, Johannes Anyuru, whose work has been widely translated from its original Swedish, Korean writer and translator, Han Yujoo, whose book The Impossible Fairy Tale is her first to appear in English and Deborah Smith, translator of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, winner of the Man Booker International Prize.

This event is brought to you in collaboration with The Royal Society of Literature and The European Writers’ Tour.



About The Speakers

Johannes Anyuru

Johannes Anyuru is a poet, novelist and playwright. He made his debut in 2003 with the collection of poems Only The Gods Are New.  His latest highly anticipated novel De kommer att drunkna i sina mödrars tårar/The Rabbit Yard (2017) enjoyed immense success in Sweden and went straight to the top of the critics’ lists.

Deborah Smith

Deborah Smith is a British translator of Korean literature, mainly fiction by Bae Suah and Han Kang. In 2015 she founded Tilted Axis, a nonprofit press publishing contemporary Asian writing. In 2016 her translation of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian won the Man Booker International Award.

Han Yujoo

Han Yujoo was born in Seoul in 1982, and holds degrees in German literature, aesthetics and comparative literature. She has translated works by Michael Ondaatje and Geoff Dyer into Korean, and publishes experimental fiction through Oulipo Press. The author of three critically-acclaimed story collections, The Impossible Fairytale is her first novel.

About The Chair

Boyd Tonkin

Boyd Tonkin is an award-winning journalist who currently writes on literature and culture for The Financial Times, The Economist, Newsweek and The Spectator. He was previously Literary Editor and then Senior Writer at The Independent, where he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and judged the award for 15 years. He chaired the jury of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, and now serves as the prize’s Special Adviser.