Today on the site, Alex Wong interviews the cartoonist Hellen Jo, primarily about her translation work on Yeon-sik Hong’s recently published Uncomfortably Happily.
Alex Wong: As a cartoonist yourself, how did you relate to Hong’s personal experiences?
Hellen Jo: I can’t tell you how many times I’d stop translating, simply to shiver in a moment of are you kidding me right now? The parallels between the book and my life were ridiculous and uncanny. I’d translate a page about the main character avoiding his editor’s pleading calls, and literally within the hour, I’d get an urgent email from an animation director where my revisions were, which I would then ignore. I’d spend a few hours having a spiraling panic attack, then attack the weeds in my yard to de-stress, and then I’d sit down to translate a chapter where Hong did the exact same thing.
Hong and I also had similar reactions to stressful situations: panic, indignant anger, complete avoidance. The translation work ended up becoming a mental and emotional echo chamber as well, which I had never expected. As the first person to translate the book into English, I felt very much like Uncomfortably Happily was destined to land in my hands so that it could pat me on the back and say, “Hey, you’re not alone. We’re all freaking out together!”
There seems to be a real pre-Comic-Con lull on the comics internet lately, with the only thing I find many people discussing NPR’s recently released list of 100 “favorite” comics. In the introduction, they claim the list is “personal and idiosyncratic,” but to me it reads as anything but. The older material on the list is pretty solid, if generally unsurprising (Mary Perkins on Stage is one pleasant exception to this rule), but a huge percentage of recent material is just well-liked but unremarkable milktoast. I guess that’s what’s popular, but it’s kind of sad for critics to give junk like this cachet. NPR would never fill a 100 best books list with so many James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer novels, even if they are what sell…