Popular Female Writers Explore Seoul - Seoul: The City in Fiction by Kang Young-sook et al.

  • onOctober 20, 2014
  • Vol.5 Autumn 2009
  • byKo Mihye
Seoul: The City in Fiction

Seoul: The City in Fiction is a collection of short stories written by the most popular female writers in Korea today, all based on the common theme of ‘Seoul.’ Nine distinctive writers, including both newcomers and veterans to the literary scene, participated in the anthology: Lee Hye-gyeong, Ha Seong-nan, Kwon Yeo-sun, Kim Soom, Kang Young-sook, Lee Shinjo, Yoon Sunghee, Pyun Hye-Young, and Kim Ae-ran.

Some of the writers were born and raised in Seoul, others grew up elsewhere and moved to the city as adults, and still others lived in Seoul for a time before moving somewhere else. Just as the nine writers’ relationships with Seoul are diverse, the Seoul they depict in their stories also varies.

For people from other cities, the Seoul depicted in Lee Hye-gyeong’s “Bukchon” is a place that is not easy to love. Seoul with its many newcomers, as is the case in any capital city, is far from being a true hometown, and Lee portrays this image of Seoul through the protagonist, who lives like a vagabond and cannot settle down. The Seoul in Ha Seong-nan’s “April Fool’s Day, 1968” is a space where many people’s futile ambitions are pooled. The protagonist peppers his life with lies and tall tales in order to survive in a city filled with vain desires.

Kim Soom and Kim Ae-ran, two young and promising writers, also select older, run-down parts of Seoul in lieu of glittery skyscrapers for their stories, “My Secretive Neighbors” and “Insects,” respectively. Both writers portray the alienation of people in modern cities through a style of grotesquerie and surrealism.

For readers, this collection offers a double bonus: the most loved female writers in Korea today brought together in one book, and an entertaining glimpse of the Hangang (river), Namsan (mountain), Bukchon (village), and other major parts of Seoul rendered in fiction.