Asia Society presents; 20
He's also Society president. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your most on this transcribed series is the noted author on the ward winning broadcaster Ligue Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. Whenever you read a book by an Asian author it's quite possible that our guest on this program is responsible for bringing that book to the United States. She's Mrs Vani Crown who was the director of the Asian literature program of the Asia Society. Mrs. Crom knows Asia very well. She is very drawn to it and I'm sure Asians are drawn to her. In the latter part of nine hundred sixty eight. She spent several months in Korea and we will be talking about that to a great extent on this program. But I first would like to ask you about the Asian literature program. This is counted. Are you responsible for having works by age and also as translated into English and then published here is that the main idea of sight is the main idea I can't say we are responsible except
for a small fraction of what is published really. Course there isn't that much that is published by contemporary Asian writers far more from Japan than anyplace else. And as you know the Nobel Prize winner was kind of out of the Japanese this past year but we work primarily with the classical literature medieval literature as well as the modern things which will be well in the classical literature really has never been introduced in this country say from India Afghanistan Indonesia Korea Japan. I've noticed that Canuck not that they publish a great many books by Asian writers but they do publish some. I always say more than anything else yes Harold Strauss that going off has been very much interested in Japanese writers and he really is the follower of Japanese fiction. How do you go about choosing an Asian book and having it translated. Oh it's a. Go through many processes of course I talk with people with knowledge of the language who reside in this country and then I travel to
Asia and sort of sleuth sleuth things out talk with publishers authors scholars people in universities and colleges abroad. I do a lot of reading myself of course. Not only in Asia but I'm in contact with scholars and people in publishing in Europe and England. Do you read in other languages any Asian languages. You know I just pick other people's brains. I'm working on Korean that I think you'll ever see out. Yes well there are so many languages learn dialects of languages it would be quite a job it wouldn't be useful in my work to know an Asian language actually because I would still have the handicap of not knowing 12 or 13 major languages if I knew one it would be of small value. But when you say you rely upon the opinion of the brains of other people in making these selections are books selected on the basis of their narrative and others in the countries where they originated or the reputation of the author or what is your criterion.
Oh there's several I one of the main ones is whether the sun. Well be of interest to the general reader here as well as a rather vague term general reader I'm never quite sure what it means but a trade book but will also be of value in university and college courses you know we're throwing out textbooks in this country so I'm not talking about a textbook but I'm talking about a literary work that will have value in shedding light on Asian culture or on an Asian literary tradition or cultural tradition which will actually know it's going to be used and read. But not that we want to be commercial but then books have to be bought and sold. I'm wondering whether you could say offhand which titles just several have been most popular with people in this country. Oh probably one of those Kama Sutra or something. One of the love manuals from India have sold probably better books on Buddhism sell fairly well
but really you can't say Asian books sell well I think that probably the Japanese things that are thought to be so popular have not made. Probably have a doctor and much more than break even although I think again only recognition of come about and the Nobel Prize will make a difference. And how about American books I know they have very popular in Japan where you do get royalties I know one of my own books was translated into Japanese and to this day I get tiny Rhode rejects owing on for years. Yes but how about. And then I understand that in on Taiwan they just pirate books. That's not really that's a thing to say and they don't have all that is true. Are American books very popular than in Asia. Yes I think we're great exporters and we're very poor importers. That's one thing the Asian society is trying to rectify. Just because importers of Asian culture. But on the other hand I think this is. A tribute
to Asians. They seem to be able to take the world much more easily than we can. I know we're going to talk about Korea a little bit more and I like to use them as examples but I'm so impressed with how they read authors from all over the world is just a part of one's life to read Russian authors to be influenced by them by the Japanese by the German by the Americans. I was quite surprised think real people were already talking about the couples. John All right. Yes and I thought that was you know very quick for picking something up because that was popular only six months right here. Right. Mrs. Grant although you have visited I suppose all the countries of the Far East. That one could get into. You say that Korea is the country that. Well I have a huge 0 0 it shows you why of all the countries Is this the one. Well yes I don't know whether I should really have a preference in public because of my work but I do. Sure yeah. And I think it's I can't hide a passion
I think it's a good thing but. I usually answer it's the people first and second to food and third the landscape. But it's sort of like why are you in love with someone you really can't say. It's you know it's an emotional thing in many ways. But I'm also intellectually attracted to I'm very interested in traditional Korean culture. Well Wouldn't this is a slight digression but don't you think when you are in love with someone you can say oh yes but there's still that something that unicycle that's a part of it. But I think one could say to a great extent as you can say about Korea. Yes well of course as I say I can say the people I can give the characteristics of the people that attract me to them. What about their food is it is it somewhat like Chinese food. No not at all not at all what is life. It's Song quite highly seasoned the main dish is kimchi
or I call it the main dish because that's the one that is in every home including in the traditional Korean village you have maybe just rice meat once in a while but kimchi kimchi is a pickled cabbage. And I've been there twice in Korea during the kimchi making season. And it's I think it's a most interesting process beginning with seeing the cabbage grow in the field. Then it's brought to the market you see these huge mounds of cabbage in the market and then you know depending upon how much money you have or how large your family as you'll see the loads being carried down the road and it might be a load on a chip gay or an A-frame that's carried on the back of a man which is not too large a load or maybe a wagon or if you're lucky it may be a whole truckload kimchee that you're putting up or I see a large wagon load for a family and then much cutting goes on in the household women cut up the
vegetables the cabbage turnips may go into it. There are special kimchi is where you would put in a pickled fish or sometimes fruit. They're very each household has its own special kimchi. And then this is packed into beautiful glazed Brown glazed kimchi jar. These are about two feet high. And then to keep them from either freezing or getting too warm they're buried in the ground. This caused a bit of a problem this year because it got warm in much of the kimchi was spoiling and it also causes a problem as one modernizes ice. I told my Korean friend one of these days you're going to be eating only the canned commercial kimchi because. Oh well first of all it takes so much time to make a tent. It's sort of like the canning process in this country nobody cans anymore really. But then also it has to do with urban living. There's no place to keep a kimchi jar
in the Seoul apartment. They have built balconies but you see the weather gets to war they made kimchi freezers. Oh I suppose you could develop some kind of thing but it would take up too much room once again you know as Apartment living here is crowded conditions and so forth and there just won't be the room for the kimchi John. What else is in their diet. And do they have a no enough food generally speaking. Let's Rice of course is a stabler rice mixed with something you pending upon how good the rice crop was during that year and then usually need to some kind pork beef barbecue and different kinds of delicacies to not really desert fruit is eaten for dessert. But there will be some sort of sweet along the way. The only thing wrong with Korean cuisine is that you do get the same thing three times a day there's very little variation and while I like korean food I do find a little difficult face first thing in the morning. But you did say.
If you say then the people and the landscape we've heard that it is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and has a riot in its landscape. Is that true. Yes it's so of course there's the coastal areas and the beaches you see but those are quite rugged actually right along. It's very mountainous it's mountains all over the most beautiful range the diamond mountains are in the East and in the north and unfortunately the most beautiful parts are inaccessible because of this unfortunate division of Korea into North and South Korea. We cannot get to the north. The most beautiful scenery isn't. Before we talk about the people who I can see appeal to you very much what would you just prefer us quickly about how the division took place. Because by now many of us have forgotten.
Well I think people have even forgotten that Korea was once an independent country up until 1910 when the Japanese annexed it and the world sort of ignored this annexation. Perhaps if they had not ignored it at that time the division wouldn't have occurred. But the Japanese didn't exit and that was a rather unusual occupation. It was not treated exactly as a colony the Japanese wanted to bring it into their empire. They wanted the Koreans to become Japanese and at one time they were even forced to take Japanese names and to learn the Japanese language. And when the sign which are Japanese war began and I ran 1937 Korea analysts even forbidden in the schools and people were punished for speaking Korean if they were heard to speak korean so forth. Well anyway when the Japanese surrendered in 1945 an agreement had been made
between our government and the Russian government that Russia would take the troops above the thirty eighth parallel. And we would take the troops below. And this resulted in this division and then Korea was to have free elections and they weren't allowed in the north. There were problems in the south with Signori and the division just continued. It's the young South Korean government that's recognized by the UN of course. Yes. So the division has been in existence for more than 21 years. Do you think that it is beginning to harden lines so that the people of the South Nash we don't know too much about the people that will be without it getting accustomed to it may have just lived this way. Yes I think there will be many many years before there is unification I think people would like to see the north as well as in the south but it would be a matter of on whose terms it would be and of course that's a problem. We see it in Germany we see it in. Perhaps we're just going to have to learn to live with divided countries. The sad thing about Korea was
there is a unified country for hundreds and hundreds of years and it's longer than any other device. Well Vietnam no was was more recently lots more really hasn't and Germany seems old but that's only a matter of a few hundred or less than a hundred years. But for a very homogeneous society or which was a very homogeneous society it's just sad that's a rather when you say only genius then you are implying that the people of Korea are certain kinds of certain kind of person anyway whatever kind of person they are they appeal to you very much. How would you describe them. Well the cliche is that they're the Irish of the East. I would work with you know I wouldn't use either but that's what I do to the east. Well I don't quite know how to does that mean they're jolly and they're extremely good speakers and they are. I wouldn't use the word jolly but a marvelous sense of humor. And I
also find them smiling and laughing under rather extreme conditions. Carrying heavy loads getting stuck in the mud overcrowded buses they seem to maintain good humor. There is an old line and here comes book the grass roof which says my uncle got into the national habit of happiness. This is could be a kind of resignation to bury or maybe he's just been able to live with the forces forces of nature forces of great powers. So on I'd like to think it's more of a philosophical acceptance and a right. Well yes I should. I hope it is I don't know I would prefer your term yes to resignation. The people are very attractive. It seems to me you Koreans I've met you used to turn on your program with great glee but one UN fact you were talking about food. Yes but I didn't say I was very oh I was sort of struck with just saying and fact it's a new word but that's what the Koreans are. They aren't fat.
The biggest shock coming home there's always some shock coming on but this time I was looking at fat people again and the Koreans are a real joy to look at. That's one reason I like it. It's very nice to look at beautiful people and the Koreans are very beautiful. Both the man are handsome they're tall they carry themselves well the women are very beautiful. And probably the most beautiful or the old man had faces haven't a mellowness not not a depressing look. People grow old very gracefully. Andrea one is either venerated and respected. This is all part of Confucian tradition in Korea to respect the elders and the still hangs on that part of the tradition. So it's the sort of time when old people can sit back and enjoy things and they really do enjoy things and enjoy the grandchildren they enjoy the children just enjoy scholarship in the sunshine. But the old men are specially beautiful. I guess that's why they are good looking. Because their beauty hasn't been
spoiled by their feeling rejected. There's nothing to be married and wanted still and therefore they must look well for your reason. I've noticed that several Korean artists have done very well in this country no I speak of musical performers musical artists. Is that music an important tradition in Korea. Korean music I think is so it's so utterly unknown in the West and you hope it doesn't get lost at all. I don't think it will because the government as well as private individuals encourage traditional music but the Koreans have some instruments of their own that are very marvelous. Kagame Yes. Oh close to the sitars to the visitor. Probably this if there's a closer thing it comes to but we've heard so much in the unused sick of the ragas Ravishankar place and so forth and really as lovely and as exciting and beautiful as with pop music.
I was referring also to the fact that a Korean pianist who will make a debut here said Carnegie Hall playing Western classical music. Is there a popularity of western music. Oh you have a a so that they seem very well acquainted with it as they seem to be in Japan Nowadays it's the same thing that I was referring to earlier is that they are able to accept the literature of the world and this is true of music also there is a symphony with Western instruments. And but that's not the thing I'm not. I'm not as interested in that you know career as I am in the community but it is there and it's a comment again on the people of how big they are. Yes it certainly proves your point that they accept everything that's going on. They don't question its origin if they like if they accept us it's nothing that's portrayed as something you know there's not the exotic West or exotic Western music it's just part of life and examine a phobia you know.
And I do want to ask you this about your life in Korea. You lived as a Korean woman would to some extent. No I don't live in Syria and I have no you know women women would. And I explain that Korea is a male society. And this is absolutely lovely for Western women. Woman I wouldn't want to be a Korean woman. The word for wife means inside women she's inside the house. And even among young Koreans between 30 and 40 years of each party to be given the wives don't come for maybe one or two of them well but it's just not a tradition for the wife to come out socially. The president's wife is beginning to come to differ she appears at different cocktail parties that's all because unusual. I really don't know so much about Japan. And I gather going to answer accurately because I don't know Japanese people in the
same way but the Korean woman to this day if she has a wife and doesn't play too great a social part strawman Yes. Then are there no women present or others are different. There may be men who want to maintain Laning and beautiful. Oh yes it's called the creasing. Yes I like the geisha similar. And it is a male society. Men usually don't go home for dinner men get together afterwards and they talk and they sing and they dine together and perhaps they go to a kissing house and there will be the female entertainers. Or are you saying it's nice to be a Western woman in Korea because I could go to the kissing house with Korean friends. And once in a while Korean women will more adventurous will go to or to the market houses which are the wine drinking houses.
But as a Western woman you would have privileges that a Korean woman right. Not exactly. So as a long life that would not be for you or any Western you know now does the Korean wife then lead such a cloistered life. I mean as you know expression of any kind she confined just to domesticity. Yes yes really Shias now. Well I can qualify that in traditional Korea a wife even of a wrist Craddock family might run a small wine shop. The coffee houses you saw and this is an institution. Everybody goes to the coffee house business is conducted in the coffee house. They are almost always run by women generally married women and then of course among young people. Professions are opening up. The girls might work in the banks or a few jobs but with the expectation that they will marry eventually and become an insider and then retreat now
I thought I read some time ago that a group of more enterprising Korean wives got together and decided that they were tired of this kind of life and tired of the outside woman who entertained their husbands and that they wanted to play an active role in their husbands lives. One thing about into that movement though I did not in any big way I think this is not really keeping women down I think is just something that is accepted because when I would raise questions about it I was sort of looked at as the odd one. Yes there it would seem so as I wanted to you know I would raise questions of jealousy because it's something we are so guilty of in the West women being jealous it's one of those terrible characteristics that we have. This is just unheard of. Women are not supposed to be jealous. Women are used to gossip. I don't know if it is unheard of maybe it's not publicized. I think a woman is the woman she's in love is apt to be upset if her husband is paying attention to someone else. She can't
show it yet that doesn't mean she doesn't feel it. No. Yes. A final question if you could add briefly to the people who seem to like any one country better than the other. Do they still dislike the Japanese. Or do they perhaps prefer the Americans who they seem to feel closest to outside their own country. Oh I would assume America. This isn't talked about particularly but I think it's I call it sort of Americanization of practically everybody partly because you see we still have forces there when Miss is gone I enjoyed so much this conversation with you and I know that our audience has. And I'd like to thank you for being here and to say that our guest Mrs. bonny Crown is the director of the Asian literature program of the Asia Society and this is Lee Graham saying goodbye and with a reminder that although East is East and West is West we do think the time has come for the twain to meet.
That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham. This series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham at WNYC New York City 100 0 7 and make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of the Asia Society presents. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
- Asia Society presents
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- Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
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Host: Graham, Leigh
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