Reflecting on our blossoming relationship with Korea
“For me, Tara Books is a publisher which has a strong identity. And this identity lies on the border between not only what is local and what is universal, but also what is traditional and what is contemporary. Their approach to the book is something between the view of the publisher and that of the artist/artisan, so an ordinary reader can have an artistic book without paying a high cost.”
So read an email that popped into our inbox recently, from G Colon – a design magazine based in Korea. While the email made for pleasant reading, it wasn’t as surprising as you might imagine. From visits to rights sales, media coverage to awards – the last twelve months has been something of a Korean themed year for us here at Tara Books. It began with our founder Gita Wolf being invited to Seoul by the Korean Publishers’ Society, and has culminated with an even more significant milestone: our first handmade title being published in Korean.
It’s always a special day when finished books first come into our offices from our Book Craft Workshop, but seeing Borim’s edition of our quintessential title The Night Life of Trees was particularly poignant. A fusion of Indian craftsmanship and art, a sensitive translation into Korean script, and the collaboration of two publishers venturing into the unknown; it acts as a tangible symbol of all that has been achieved in partnership with Korea over the years.
So how did it all begin? The first Tara title in the Korean market was brought out by the publisher Dongin over ten years ago, after an encounter at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Since then, Korean publishers have bought the rights to several of our books, until now always producing the books themselves by the conventional offset method.
It’s been interesting to see the kind of books that Korean publishers have selected from our list. They all have a strong sense of place, and evoke the specific context of India: whether through conjuring up Pondicherry’s bazaar in To Market! To Market, giving a glimpse of Indian village life in Tiger on a Tree or addressing the issue of child labour in Chennai in Trash! This as a phenomenon is exciting, reflecting the willingness of Korean publishers to explore different cultures in a meaningful way.
For us, this sums up and reinforces many of Tara’s fundamental beliefs and principles: the ability of the visual to transcend the boundaries created by language, the importance of collaboration in order to push the boundaries of how we work and ultimately the fact of our shared common humanity, which supersedes while not neglecting the role of disparate cultures.
Going forward, we hope that our links to Korea will grow even stronger: through collaborating with the InKo (Indo-Korean) centre in here in Chennai for exhibitions and events, hosting visiting Korean artists and writers at our new space – Book Building – and of course through seeing more of our books available in Korean. Our latest collaboration is with Jogye, who will be releasing four of our titles next year. Their representative Prof. Choi Dong il said that they were attracted by the special philosophy of our books. Long may this special relationship continue.
‘The Night Life of Trees’ will be published by Borim later this year. This blogpost first appeared in the Inko Centre Focus magazine, and is reproduced and adapted here with their kind permission.