Interpreters by Ron Schafrick
Interpreters is a collection of seven loosely linked short stories set in both South Korea and Canada. In “Interpreter,” nominated for the Journey Prize, a movie subtitle writer is asked to translate a document that forces him to reveal some unsettling information to his elderly Korean landlords. In “Don’t You Know Me Yet?” a Canadian English teacher in Seoul learns something about human universality in his struggle to find a little peace and quiet. “Youth-in-Asia” tells the story of a Westerner in Seoul who becomes entangled in the family crisis of a young man he hardly knows beyond a brief, intimate encounter. In “The Boy from Ireland,” a man confronts his own loneliness when he meets another man on the Toronto subway. The collection ends with “Refugees,” the story a North Korean couple tells of their escape to Canada; the only question—is it true?
As the title implies, "Interpreters" is peopled with characters who are not only interpreting other people’s words across cultures and languages, but also trying to make sense of the stories they are being told. Many of the characters here are “foreigners”—foreigners to Korea, returnees or newcomers to Canada. Most are gay men, and all are believers that happiness, respect, or love lies elsewhere.