Hermeneutics and Life Writing: Ha Jin as a “Migrant” Translator
The hermeneutics of translation is particularly important to Ha Jin’s work, which includes the novel instead A Free Life, a collection of essays instead The Writer as Migrant, and the book of short stories instead A Good Fall. The concept of translation adopted throughout is based on how “life writing”
enables the author to employ his or her own experiences in composing a literary text, which is constituted in a manner that cannot be reduced to subjective concerns. Ha Jin is shown to present various personal experiences in a mediated form in his novels and prose essays. In contrast to a conception of “life writing” that draws strongly on the genre of memoir, this paper maintains that Ha Jin transforms or “translates” personal experience into a fictional content that goes beyond the writer’s life-history. The hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer and the phenomenological criticism of Wolfgang Iser are employed in this paper to demonstrate how Ha Jin’s contribution to literature cannot be assimilated to a subjective account of writing.
In the conclusion of the paper, I emphasize how Ha Jin’s commitment to literary form is inseparable from his attempt to translate lived experience into fiction and criticism.