Malaysian author Daryl Kho's award-winning fantasy novel Mist-Bound: How To Glue Back Grandpa is being translated into Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese, allowing readers in the respective countries to enjoy the enchanting tale.
Mist-Bound, published in 2021, is one of the rare works of fiction for young readers published in the region that features dementia as a central theme.
The story follows a brave girl named Alexis as she embarks on an epic quest to save her beloved grandfather’s broken memories before they are forever lost to the mists in his mind.
The story takes inspiration from Kho’s personal life – the protagonist takes her name from Kho’s real-life daughter and Grandpa is based on Kho’s father, who passed away in 2018 after living with dementia for almost a decade.
Kho, 44, says he can’t wait to walk into a bookstore in Hanoi, Shanghai and Seoul to see the localised copies of Mist-Bound sitting on a shelf.
“One of the things that drove me to finish the book, even after my father had died, was the idea that each time a person reads it is a chance for him to be ‘saved’ anew, over and over and over again, by his granddaughter. Now he also gets to be saved in different tongues. Every new language is like a new spell, a new prayer for my father,” says Kho.
Reaching new audiences
Kho prefers to call Mist-Bound a “family novel”, as it can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
Indeed, the book has grown-up fans from around the world, including South Korean writer-translator Bora Chung (of Cursed Bunny fame), who was an International Booker Prize 2022 finalist.
At the George Town Literary Festival in Penang last November, Kho and Chung were among the panelists.
He reveals that it was Chung who reached out to him to ask if she could translate the book into Korean.
“After being on the International Booker Prize shortlist last year, Bora has been in sizzling-hot demand, being flown to all corners of the earth to speak at book festivals and conferences. Some of her stories have been optioned, if not already being produced, for K-dramas,” says Kho.
“So for someone like her to: a) buy my book with her own money, b) actually find the time to read it, and then c) reach out to ask me if she could possibly translate my book into Korean, that still implodes my mind to this day,” he adds.
Kho, who works in the regional TV industry in Singapore, says that the translations are expected to be published next year and that translations into other languages are currently under discussion.
There are also talks to adapt Mist-Bound to the big screen. Kho recently signed a development deal with an LA and Seoul-based production and talent management company, B&C Content, which represents global stars like actor/producer/ filmmaker Don Lee (Train To Busan, The Roundup franchise) and Oscar-nominated actor Steven Yeun (Minari).
“We’re currently pursuing an animated adaptation of Mist-Bound, and are in active discussions with some top studios, screenwriters and directors for the project,” says Kho.
“As a broadcast media professional who has made a living selling other people’s stories, it will truly be a dream come true if I can eventually see my own story brought to life.”
Mist-Bound won the Hedwig Anuar Book Award 2022, a biennial prize presented by the Singapore Book Council, and the “Best Young Persons Title” at the Singapore Book Awards 2022.
In China, the translation will be published under New Star Press; in South Korea, it will be under Sam and Parkers; while in Vietnam, translation rights have been acquired by Kim Dong Publishing House.