Author Topic: Recent Korean Literature  (Read 1393 times)

buttgammon

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Recent Korean Literature
« on: January 04, 2021, 11:24:01 AM »
Korean fiction in translation seems to have been having a bit of a moment over the last few years. Han Kang is a particularly stunning writer, and her novels The Vegetarian and Human Acts are two of the best books I've read over the last five or six years, but there's also  writers like Bae Suah (author of Recitation and Bandi, who I've never read anything by but a Korean friend assures me is great. He's a North Korean writer whose work has been smuggled out of the country.

I'm currently reading The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-eun, which is good. It's about a woman who works for a tour company that organises trips to disaster zones who goes on one of her own tours and gets embroiled in an increasingly outlandish attempt to keep the place on the tourist trail. Although it's hardly set in Korea, it fits in well with one of the themes that's common to a lot of this literature: the frighteningly rapid and dangerously uneven development of South Korea into a high-tech capitalist country.

Janie Jones

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Re: Recent Korean Literature
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2021, 02:09:15 PM »
I’m reading Almond by Won-pyung Sohn, published 2020. I suspect it’s ‘young adult’ literature but I’m enjoying it, it’s about a teenager who has Alexithymia (something I think one or two CaBbers could identify with) so it’s a bit ‘curious incident of the dog in the night’ ish, and very readable.

I’ll look out for Han Kang’s output, cheers Buttgammon.

Captain Crunch

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Re: Recent Korean Literature
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2021, 05:21:42 PM »
There’s Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo (2020), which seems to get very good reviews.  I liked it because it’s a nice compact book rattling through the life of Kim Jiyong.  She’s an everywoman, facing the brunt of the patriarchy from birth to the her early 30’s.  It’s not quite as bleak as it sounds, it even has a few laughs but it’s not really specific to Korea, the things she goes through could happen in almost any country.  Worth a read but nowhere near as stunning as the Vegetarian.  It certainly doesn't stay with you like that. 

Re: Recent Korean Literature
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2021, 08:43:49 PM »
Haven't go to it yet but I have No One Writes Back by Eun-Jin Jang in my pile of books to read. A modern picaresque novel apparently, where the main character travels, meets people he randomly assigns numbers to, writes them letters, and none of them write back. Supposed to be good, quite looking forward to it.

Re: Recent Korean Literature
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2021, 08:07:48 AM »
I recently picked up two from this series of chapbooks, though I haven't read them yet (the Han Kang and Cheon Heerahn titles): https://www.strangers.press/yeoyu (There's also a series of Japanese fiction from the same publisher.)

buttgammon

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Re: Recent Korean Literature
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2021, 11:13:25 AM »
Some interesting stuff here and I haven't read anything that's been mentioned so far, so lots of reading for the new year.

I recently picked up two from this series of chapbooks, though I haven't read them yet (the Han Kang and Cheon Heerahn titles): https://www.strangers.press/yeoyu (There's also a series of Japanese fiction from the same publisher.)

But I have been meaning to have a look at this series (haven't even read the Han Kang one yet despite loving her).

Inspector Norse

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Re: Recent Korean Literature
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2021, 06:58:36 PM »
I recently picked up two from this series of chapbooks, though I haven't read them yet (the Han Kang and Cheon Heerahn titles): https://www.strangers.press/yeoyu (There's also a series of Japanese fiction from the same publisher.)

Those look really interesting, cheers

To make the thread question a bit more specific, does anyone have any recommendations for contemporary literature set in Seoul (or Tokyo)? I’ve watched quite a lot of films set there and am interested in getting deeper in there, but beyond Murakami, Kang and one or two others there doesn’t seem to be much consensus on what Korean and Japanese stuff to check out in translation. I’m more interested in novels about contemporary life there than historical/traditional things I guess.

Re: Recent Korean Literature
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2021, 10:17:17 AM »
Haven't go to it yet but I have No One Writes Back by Eun-Jin Jang in my pile of books to read.

Been a while since I read it, but it was one I enjoyed, though the ending is a bit cheesy.

Also liked Please Look After Mother by Kyung-sook Shin, a story about an aged mother going missing when she comes from the countryside to visit her children in the city and how they deal with it and reflect on her life. It could have been rather saccharine and obvious it its approach but thankfully wasn't despite its bestseller status.

Not entirely successful but still interesting was One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun, a story about two young people starting out in a relationship who work in a building housing an electronics market which is about to be torn down and with touches of magical realism.

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