Nicolas Braesas

Hwarang (Argentina)
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I´m Nicolás Braessas, translator and founder of Hwarang Editorial. After graduating in Argentina, I studied Korean at Seoul National University.

Hwarang Editorial is the first publishing house in the Spanish speaking world that publishes Korean literature only. Our mission is to introduce a comprehensive catalogue of Korean writers, from classics to contemporary authors, in Spanish markets.

Please introduce ‘Hwarang Editorial’ and the work you are currently in charge to Korean readers and publishers.

Hwarang Editorial is the first Spanish publishing house that focuses on Korean Literature only. The history of Korean translation in the Spanish speaking world is new: the first literary works were translated in the 90´s so it is a very exciting project, like discovering a whole new world. The mission of Hwarang Editorial is to present an exhaustive catalogue of the Korean literary tradition, not only contemporary authors, but classic ones too.

As far as I know, the first work published by your company was by Korean author Lee Sang. Considering the unique nature of poetry, I presume it would not be an easy job to translate and publish the work in Spanish. Nevertheless, was there any particular reason why you published this work first?

I fell in love with Lee Sang poetry. When I didn’t know much about Korean literature, I run into a biography of him and I couldn’t believe that he wrote such a marvelous oeuvre being so young. He is a milestone in Korean modern literature so I thought it would be a symbol to initiate the publishing house with his work. It was really complicated to translate it into Spanish, as he mixed of hanja and hangul, the obscure meaning of many of his poems. Lee Sang is not just our first book, but a current project. We made a translation experiment starting from our Spanish version. From my Spanish translation, a Brazilian poet translated into portuñol a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish; A Catalan poet into catanyol, a mix of Catalan and Spanish; and a Paraguayan poet translated into Yopará, mixing Guarani and Spanish. The idea was to show the complexities and tensions of Lee Sang and his period: Lee Sang wrote part of his poetry in Japanese, so we decided to work with poets that write in mixed languages to show the tensions in Lee Sang. Each translation has a particular tone. Every year we publish a new edition with three more versions. Last year was Spanglish (Spanish-English), Quichuañol (Quechua-Spanish) and Euskañol (Basque-Spanish).

What is the reaction of Argentine readers to

It was well received. Our edition includes an introduction that explains Lee Sang’s historical context, his biography and the aesthetics transformations of that period. As Korean literature is not that well known in our country, paratexts are fundamental to introduce it to new readers. Thanks to this kind of editions, classic Korean authors are not being seen as exotic writers from faraway lands. It is important to publish classics again and again so they can be known outside scholar circles.

What factors do you focus on when deciding which overseas works to publish?

We have many factors in mind. There must be a balance between what our readers want, but we also need the element of surprise. Korean literature is different from Latin American literature, we like that our readers discover those differences, that “otherness” that creates bridges between cultures. There is a lot of curiosity to see what is happening in Korea right now, which are the latest trends and of course we are interested in that. Sometimes what works in some place doesn’t work in another, but we are willing to take risks. There is also an interest in female authors, feminisms, non-traditional genres like sci-fi. Korean Literature is new in our country, so anthologies are a good way to introduce many authors.

The world's publishing industry is undergoing major changes in the covid-19 pandemic. I would like to know how the publishing market in Argentina has changed since the pandemic and how your company is responding to it.

In Argentina there is a big tradition of literary events: book fairs, poetry and fiction recitals, workshops with authors and translators, etc. Face to face interaction is fundamental to create a community of readers, to create cultural ties and not just business relations. Because of the pandemic we managed to find digital solutions that we weren’t used to work with. In our country, eBooks, social networks, forums are not popular at all in the literary scene, so it was a big transformation. We started to focus a lot on bookstagramers, youtubers, tiktokers. In this new scenario they were better communicators than the traditional ones. This horizontal way of sharing information, more segmented, is a great strategy to reach new readers. We created new bonds in the digital community, the Spanish speaking world is extremely large, so focusing on the digital media was also an opportunity to fill that territorial gap. Now readers from Mexico and Spain are in direct contact with our publishing house and after the pandemic when economy starts to grow again and borders get back to normal we have big plans to expand outside South America.

I know that you have also published works by young Korean artists such as Kim Jung-hyuk, Chung serang, and Jang Ryu-jin. Are there any Korean writers or works that you are interested in recently or want to work with in the future? ​

I really like the work of Kang Hwa-gil​ and Cheon Heerahn. We are publishing an anthology of short stories including them and many more. In the future, I would love to publish more poetry. Authors like Hyemi are amazing and it’s a pity that the market focuses mainly on fiction.

For those in charge of overseas publishing companies who want to publish translations in Argentina, please explain the process of publishing the works of foreign countries in Argentina.

Argentina always promotes bibliodiversity and our readers are eager to know more about other literary traditions. Publishers are usually in contact with international fairs like Frankfurt or Guadalajara, but contacts with literary institutions are even more important.
LTI is a great ally that supports Korean Literature around the world, without their help probably Hwarang Editorial wouldn’t even exist. Because of language barriers sometimes it is difficult to know what is happening in the Korean literary scene, so LTI is a wonderful showcase to learn and appreciate what is going on. The first step from Argentinian publishers is to contact LTI. On the other hand, if you are an overseas publisher who wants to publish in Argentina, I recommend that you contact the LTI too. They know which publishing houses work with Korean Literature in our region.

Is there any last message you would like to leave to Korean readers and publishers?

As a publisher and Korean-Spanish translator I´m very happy to see how Korean Literature is being so well received around the world. There are 500 million people in the Spanish speaking market, it’s a big opportunity to exchange our cultures. We are eager to know different authors, not just best sellers or what is supposed to suit “foreign readers”. We hope that we can make a lot of contacts to know Korean publishers better, for example, what they expect from us, what kind of literature they want to share, create cultural bonds.
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