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FICTION

Violence Carries On: The Barbaric Miss Alice by Hwang Jung-eun

  • onOctober 27, 2014
  • Vol.23 Spring 2014
  • byJung Seo Rin
The Barbaric Miss Alice
2013
164pp.

Someone walks precariously across the flat ground, as if they were climbing up a steep hill. Meet “Alicia,” a homeless transwoman. The stench of her body odor clings unattractively to our nasal membranes. Alicia, however, does not care for anything as trifling as our well-being.

The character of Alicia was born after the author caught a glimpse of a transwoman in Osaka, Japan. The mere image of her back was so powerful that the author was inspired to create a compelling character that tries and fails to escape from “the focus of violence.”

The village of Gomori is Alicia’s childhood home. The greatest concern of the villagers, including Alicia’s father, is to make sure they are compensated for the redevelopment projects set in their neighborhood. It is a place where ginkgo trees grow thick in soil enriched by the entrails and bones of dogs butchered for meat.

It is in this bizarre and desolate environment that Alicia and her beloved younger brother are raised by violence. The siblings are exposed every day to the violence of their own mother, which is “like heated steel, hot and strong enough to change the temperature of its surroundings.” Then there is the secondary violence of their father and neighbors who turn a blind eye to their mother’s abuse. Alicia’s brother’s attempt to escape violence results in the discovery of the boy’s corpse.

Later, an adult Alicia sees her mother’s face reflected in her own. Like the bedtime stories she once told her brother of a young boy named Alice who had fallen down a bottomless rabbit hole, the siblings cannot escape from the circle of violence.

“How far have you come?” the narrator repeatedly asks throughout the story. The question is all the more chilling as we try to recall whether we too have turned away from the inconvenient stench of violence, enabling violence by our tacit withdrawal. 

Author's Profile

Hwang Jungeun has authored the novels One Hundred Shadows, Savage Alice, and I’ll Go On and the short story collections Into the World of Passi, The Seven Thirty-Two Elephant Train, and Being Nobody. She has received the Kim Yujung Literary Award, the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, the Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award, and the Daesan Literary Award. One Hundred Shadows was published in 2016 by Tilted Axis, which is also set to publish I’ll Go On in 2018. Japanese translations of Savage Alice and Being Nobody were published in 2018.