Fiction

Remembering Society’s Forgotten: The Last 4½ Seconds of My Life by Song Sokze
Since modern Korean literature for years has been dominated by the theme of the Korean War, the division, and all the consequences for individuals, nowadays there are young writers of a new generation who are finding their very own subjects. We are grateful to translators for turning our attention to these writers. One of them is Song Sokze, born 1960, who is known for his partly unreal, partly absurd stories, in which often minor figures of society are at the center of attention: there are drunkards and thugs, criminals, and swindlers. The stories in his recently published book Die letzten...
Sympathy in Humor, Glamour in Simplicity: A Mother Never Dies by Choi Inho
In 2006, Professor Han Zhenqian, Chairman of the Korean Studies Research Center at Beijing University, sent his translation of A Mother Never Dies to the Writers Publishing House. Choi Inho, the author of the original work, is one of the most influential writers in Korean literary circles. He has established a solid readership in China as well, and is now counted among the most popular Korean writers in China. Early on, I developed a keen affection for the author’s works, and became curious about this novel based on his own mother. Turning each page, I was moved by the candor...
Keen and Bold Vision: There a Petal Silently Falls by Ch’oe Yun
Columbia University Press has a long history of publishing literary works from Asia in translation. For many years the modern novels on our list were translations from Chinese and Japanese fiction. Recently, with the help of KLTI, we have begun to add Korean books to our list. One of the first works of Korean fiction we published was There a Petal Silently Falls: Three Stories by Ch’oe Yun, translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton. In addition to the title story, the book includes “Whisper Yet,” and “The Thirteen- Cent Flower.” It is a very strong collection, and has received excellent...
A Classic Work Reviving History: The House with the Sunken Courtyard by Kim Won Il
The House with the Sunken Courtyard by Kim Won Il, published in 2009 by the China Social Sciences Press, is a work that deftly reveals the social realities of Korea in the wake of the Korean War, providing readers with an opportunity to learn about the history and realities of Korea. The wounds and brutal reality resulting from the war are vividly revived through a look into the daily lives of refugees after the war. The Korean War, which broke out on the Korean peninsula in 1950, had a deep impact on Korean society, as well as a direct impact...
The Loss of Innocence: Who Ate Up All the Shinga? by Park Wansuh
Park Wansuh’s autobiographical novel Who Ate Up All the Shinga? offers an intriguing and highly personalized insight into one of the most turbulent periods in modern Korean history, and for this reason alone this translation is a highly welcome addition to the growing number of Korean literary works available in English. Charting Park’s own childhood and formative years in late colonial Korea, as well as her experiences of surviving the early part of the Korean War (1950-53), this autobiography also emerges as an apologia of a kind for the often-confused national politics of the period. While the English language translation...
The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: The Last Autumn Love and Other Short Stories by Oh Jung-Hee
Oh Jung-Hee is one of the most celebrated and outstanding Korean authors. Her short stories published in Poland under the title The Last Autumn Love and Other Short Stories are consistently rich, provocative, powerful, and carefully crafted. Endowed with extraordinary talent, Oh seems to know more about the female psyche than other writers. Heroines of her stories are usually women between 30 and 40 who, limited by their role as housewives, feel the emptiness and futility of their lives. Each of these characters live in a cycle of daily routines and unfulfilled dreams. Lack of complete freedom in their lives...
Blurring the Line Between Dream and Reality: Sapporo Inn by Ha Seong-nan
Recently, an increasing number of publishers in China have been translating and publishing works of Korean literature. Popular writers such as Kim Hain and Guiyeoni are widely recognized in China, and major writers of Korea, such as Choi In-ho, Eun Hee-kyung, and Pak Wansuh are gaining a wider readership as well. Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House is closely watching outstanding Korean novelists whose works possess both literary merit and a unique worldview; one such writer is Ha Seong-nan. Ha, who stands out among the new writers of Korea, is reputed for her subtle and original style, described as “micro...
A Masterful Journey to the Past into History: The Old Garden by Hwang Sok-yong
Hwang Sok-yong is often referred to as Korea’s best candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but Hwang’s stories are about truly international characters. Oddly enough Seven Stories Press first learned about Korea’s leading author through his French publisher, Zulma. While editing The Old Garden , his tribute to South Korea’s democratic movement, I found myself checking the French translation and looking up German U-bahn stations, Russian towns, quotations from Bertolt Brecht and Käthe Kollwitz. The translator and I joked, "How many languages do you need to know to translate a Hwang Sok-yong novel?" In the midst of today’s fast-paced,...
A Masterpiece that Combines Literature and History: Land by Park Kyung-Ri
It would be no exaggeration to say that Chinese readers think of Korean literature as consisting entirely of Guiyeoni’s online novels, Kim Hain’s popular novels, and novels based on Korean soap operas. The works of some serious writers of modern Korean literary fiction have been translated and published in China, but they have failed to connect with readers, in contrast with Japanese literature, which has enjoyed much more popularity. The readership for serious Korean literature in China has been largely limited to Korean language learners and researchers of Korean literature. The Korean cultural craze that has engulfed China for the...
The Saga of the Korean People: Taebaek Mountain Range by Jo Jung-Rae
Who is Jo Jung-Rae? According to Yves Vargas, an expert on the works of Rousseau and the history of the people, “We may think of him as a living symbol of Korean history, an author who devoted his life to recording the people’s history. Jo’s works stand for Korean history but they are universal at the same time.” In an August 2007 issue of La Croix , a major daily in France, Claude Colombo wrote of Jo Jung-Rae, “Jo is one of Korea’s great thinkers who, in spite of his ceaseless inquiry and skepticism, did not lose his courage and...

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