One of the major focuses in my Korean studies this year has been reading novels. So far I’ve finished four, and I’m trying to read two more before the year ends. Right now I’m working on 객주 1권.
I’ve gradually been working my way up in difficulty. I started off with 호빗 (The Hobbit), which being a translation from English, was far from difficult. I read a couple more books aimed towards younger audiences, then read 용의 나라. Each book was somewhat harder than the previous, but it was a good learning curve, and by the end of each book I felt I had no more trouble than the previous. So, ambitiously, I decided to try the first volume of 객주.
객주 is a 10-volume 장편소설 by 김주영. It was originally serialized, and it definitely fits in the “literature” category. It is so much more difficult than the previous novels I’ve read that I’m quite overwhelmed. It seems ever paragraph is filled with unknown words. The story takes place in the late 19th century, and this is reflected in a lot of the vocabulary. The book actually has footnotes to explain some of the words, because even native Koreans aren’t expected to know them all; but most words are not footnoted. I look up some of the words, but I don’t like to rely on my dictionary too heavily, as it breaks the flow of reading; unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to maintain that flow when there are so many difficult words.
Especially difficult is the dialog. I can usually make out the meaning of narrative paragraphs (eventually), but when there’s a dialog, I’m lost half the time. It’s hard enough keeping track of who’s saying what. But in general, dialog tends to use more difficult expressions and uses a lot of ellipsis, so it’s pretty difficult to understand the intent of a long conversation.
Anyways, I’ll try to persevere for now, but I think I’ll be looking for something a bit easier after I finish volume 1.