Fiction

Fantastic Grace: Le Quartier chinois by Oh Jung-Hee
At first it is a special type of music, subtle and heady all at once, that seeps into all your pores and sweeps you into the mysterious and profound depths of the not easily captivated human soul. And then, on a second reading, you discover other strata, other paths, other movements, other notes which cannot be perceived in a single encounter — just like when you need to get acquainted with someone to know them better, to love them better. Likewise we find ourselves in Oh Jung-Hee’s precious and raw universe, whereby behind a sentence — through a soothsayer or...
Contemporary Love: El Restaurante de Sukiyaki by Bae Suah
Just when it seemed as though 20th century literature had exhausted the possibilities of choral narrative, along comes Bae Suah. In El Restaurante de Sukiyaki (The Sukiyaki Restaurant), the author, born in 1965, has invented a narrative machine that interweaves parallel stories in which the characters, their living conditions and economic difficulties in a hyper-competitive society, are relayed in a firm, objective, straightforward voice that sustains the novel. All the stories, under the gaze of the same narrator, focus on the clash between the institution of the family — parents and children or husbands and wives — and the materialism...
Inner Reflections: Beauty Despises Me by Eun Heekyung
Eun Heekyung, born in 1959, is, along with Shin Kyung-sook and Gong Ji-Young, one of the leading female writers in South Korea. Her short story collection, Beauty Despises Me , was recently translated and published in Japan for the first time. The collection delineates the absurdity of our lives in the modern age through the protagonists such as a 34-year-old man who embarks on a diet regimen, and a keenly self-conscious girl. The uncertain and perilous nature of our existence, our collective sense of loss, and the violence inherent in our daily lives are recurring motifs in Eun’s stories. However,...
The Soul of the World: Castella by Park Min-gyu
Franz Kafka searched for his connection with the world through metamorphosis and Murakami Haruki looked for his orientation in this busy world through a faint sense of pantheistic existence. In Castella , Park Min-gyu portrays his version of metamorphosis and pantheism. Simply put, it is the hope of finding miracles in this plain world, a belief that there is always some force that transcends our present life, that will arrive from out of the blue to save us from the insipidness of everyday existence. Park Min-gyu’s fridge is empowered with humanity. Everything in the world can be put into this...
The Rainy Spell by Yun Heunggil
Translated fiction constitutes a major part of Swedish publishing, almost as large as Swedish fiction itself. Out of some 3,000 titles of prose and poetry published every year, translated fiction comprises some 25 percent, thus making up a substantial and very important part of the Swedish literary scene. This is a scene heavily dominated by literature from the U.S. and U.K., with some 75 percent of all translated fiction coming from these two countries. During the last few decades the tendency towards translating Anglo-Saxon literature has increased. Literature from the continental languages such as German, French, and Spanish has, on...
Questioning the New Era: Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-gyu
The premise of Park Min-gyu’s 2009 novel — now appearing for the first time in English in Amber Hyun Jung Kim’s excellent translation — is apparently simple: a young writer, a lost soul, whose film-star father has abandoned him and his mother, falls in love with the ugliest girl he has ever seen. For those familiar with Park’s work, this will seem like standard fare. Known as a literary refusnik, it is only natural that the story of a love affair in which the heroine is hideous should flow from Park Min-gyu’s pen. But Pavane for a Dead Princess is...
Ten Stories Dazzle the French: Nocturne d’un chauffeur de taxi by Kim Ae-ran, Paik Gahuim, Ahn Yeong-sil, Jo Kyung Ran, Park Chan-soon, Kim Yeonsu, Choi Jin Young, Han Kang, Yoon Sung-hee, Pyun Hye-Young
The French translation of Nocturne d’un chauffeur de taxi (Night Over There, A Song Here), an anthology of contemporary Korean short stories, was published in April this year by the Philippe Rey Publishing House. This independent publisher, established in 2002 and specializing in French and foreign literature, boasts a catalogue featuring such established authors as Patrick Chamoiseau, Taslima Nasreen, and Joyce Carol Oates. The compilation whose title was inspired by a Kim Ae-ran short story is a collection of 10 short stories showcasing a young generation of writers, most of whom are women. Boldly and without affectation, they discuss the...
A Parallel Life: Another Man’s City by Choi Inho
Choi Inho(Ch’oe In-ho)’s last novel was written as he struggled with the cancer that finally killed him. And, as Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton tell us in their translators’ note to this, the first English version of Another Man’s City , Choi wanted to be remembered for the book, not for his celebrity in his native Korea, and not for the disease from which he suffered. It seems apt, then, that the Fultons chose to name this novel Another Man’s City , rather than the more literal “The City of Familiar Others.” Just as K., the protagonist of this strange and...
In Search of Normality: Lauf, Vater, lauf by Kim Ae-ran
Fathers play an important role in these nine stories. One of them runs away from his family without a word the day before his daughter is born. Another one abandons his child in an amusement park. A third one, after years of absence, suddenly knocks on the door of his grown-up daughter and settles in with her, just to nonstop watch TV. A forth one promises his son a pogo stick if he shows his pee-pee. A fifth one treats his little son to an expensive meal of pufferfish, only to tell him afterwards that he will have to stay...
Delving Deeper into an Ancient Land
The publication of Korea’s Ancient Kogury ǒ Kingdom: A Socio-Political History sponsored by the Literatu re Translation Institute of Korea is a welcomed addition to Korean studies. This is a translation from Korean of Noh Taedon’s 1999 manuscript Goguryeosa yeongu ( Kogury ǒ sa y ǒ ngu ). The translation, expertly rendered by John Huston, was completed in 2007 but was not published until 2014. This important book discusses much more than Goguryeo (Kogury ǒ ) as it offers considerable information on Baekche, Silla, and the kingdoms of northeast China. Noh Taedon, one of the leading Goguryeo specialists in South...

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