This comparative project wants to look into the relationship between Kim Namju (1946-1994), a prominent South Korean poet, and Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), one of the most renowned poets of modern Chilean literary history. Kim Namju, the leader of the National Liberation Front of South Korea, wrote a significant part of his oeuvre while being imprisoned because of his leftist political orientations in what during the 1970s and 1980s was a severely anti-communist country ruled by multiple dictators who followed each other in a short timespan. He translated Neruda’s poetry both during and after his imprisonment. Kim’s translations of Neruda form part of his larger translation project, namely the translation of poets with a similar ideological orientation, such as Heine, Brecht, Mayakovski, Aragon and Ho Chi Minh.
This project wants to find out what strategies Kim used in his translations as a step towards understanding how his own poetics bear the mark of Neruda’s influence. I will undertake a contextualizing and in-depth analysis of Kim Namju’s translations of Neruda which will clarify an ideologically complex and therefore still understudied part of recent Korean literary history. I am convinced that this case study of what at first sight seems a very unlikely literary dialogue ultimately hold the promise to grant access to a better understanding of the cultural landscape of both Latin America and South Korea in the twentieth century.