Deborah is currently the only published UK-based translator of contemporary Korean fiction. After graduating in English Literature from Cambridge in 2009 she embarked on learning Korean, fuelled by a desire to explore Korea’s little-known literary culture while pursuing a career in translation. She has recently completed a PhD in Korean Literature at SOAS.
Her first published translation was The Vegetarian by Han Kang (Portobello Books 2015), an extraordinary story of a family fallout described by Daniel Hahn in the Guardian as ‘a bracing, visceral, system-shocking addition to the Anglophone reader’s diet.’ Deborah’s poetic but matter of fact prose received rave reviews, including from Bailey’s Prize-winning Eimear McBride, writing in the New Statesman that ‘Deborah Smith provides the kind of translation that writers dream of’, and Man Booker shortlisted Deborah Levy, who calls her ‘obviously a genius’. The novel has been shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize.
Her other translations include another novel by Han Kang, Human Acts (Portobello Books 2016) and two by Bae Suah, A Greater Music (Open Letter 2016) and Recitation (Deep Vellum 2017). She is currently working on a third book by Han, to be published by Portobello in February 2017, a story collection by Bae Suah, and another by a North Korean still living under the regime and writing under the pseudonym ‘Bandi’.
Also a committee member for the UK Translators’ Association, Deborah has a very proactive approach to Korean literature and its translation through teaching and mentoring, organising and chairing events, and consultancy. In 2015 she founded Tilted Axis Press, a not-for-profit company aiming to shake up the world lit canon with exciting contemporary fiction translated from Bengali, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Uzbek and more.