- Bae Suah
For an Irish writer, or indeed reader, coming from the tradition of the Irish short story, Bae Suah’s collection North Station may come as something of a shock. For nowhere here will we find the “scrupulous meanness” Joyce applied so astutely to his collection Dubliners, nor indeed is there any sign of the patient crafting that one can expect to find in a Frank O’Connor story. Oh, Bae Suah’s stories start out in a traditional manner—in the title story, “North Station,” we meet a couple waiting to part at a midnight train station where they share an awkward half-kiss.
Bae Suah’s novel Recitation is a city with a thousand doorways. It is about a group of emigrants on journeys of self-discovery, but it is just as much about the act of disappearing. It is a novel about storytelling itself and the ways in which people are constructions of their stories.
In Bae Suah’s enigmatic, unsettling, and absorbing new novel, A Greater Music, the narrator goes on a trip, learns German, falls in love, falls into an icy river, expounds upon music and the limits of language, and engages in what may be the most brutal breakup scene I have ever read. Which is to say, many things happen.
“We have this!”
I shuddered in horror.
“I hate chicken. Besides, that’s for you.”
“I have to go to the bathroom.”
“It’s over there.”
In Nowhere to Be Found, her second work translated into English following Highway with Green Apples, Bae Suah does more with character and narrative in 60 pages than most novelists accomplish in 300. With concise, evocative prose, Bae merges the mundane with the strange in a way that leaves the reader fulfilled yet bewildered, pondering how exactly the author managed to pull this all off.