Book Reviews

When going to a book talk, it is all too common to find that the moderator has little knowledge of the book or its subject matter, and asks the author embarrassingly shallow questions leaving the audience and author short-changed. No such risks last night at the KCC, where the British Korean Society’s Chris Hollands conversed […]

{ 0 comments }

Book review: Waxen Wings

by Philip Gowman 4 May 2017
Thumbnail image for Book review: Waxen Wings

Waxen Wings: The ACTA Koreana Anthology of Short Fiction from Korea Edited by Bruce Fulton Koryo Press, 2011, 238pp There are plenty of anthologies of Korean translated fiction available, and many of them are edited and / or translated by Bruce Fulton, usually with Ju-Chan Fulton involved in the project too. I recently enjoyed the […]

Read the full article →

Book review: Song Sokze — The Amusing Life

by Philip Gowman 24 April 2017
Thumbnail image for Book review: Song Sokze — The Amusing Life

Song Sokze: The Amusing Life Translated by Se-un Kim Dalkey Archive, 2016, 233pp Originally published as 재미나는 인생, Kang Publishing Ltd, 1997 The most recent book to be discussed at the KCC’s monthly book club was Song Sokze’s The Amusing Life, a collection of around 50 short “stories”. None of these pieces will detain you […]

Read the full article →

Book review: Bandi — The Accusation

by Philip Gowman 16 March 2017
Thumbnail image for Book review: Bandi — The Accusation

Bandi: The Accusation – Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea Translated by Deborah Smith Serpents Tail 2017, 245 pp Originally published as 고발, Chogabje.com, 2014. Mike Breen, in his book The New Koreans, describes han as “a kind of rage and helplessness that is sublimated and lingers like an inactive resentment” and is often evidenced in […]

Read the full article →

Book review: The Future of Silence – Fiction by Korean Women

by Philip Gowman 27 February 2017
Thumbnail image for Book review: The Future of Silence – Fiction by Korean Women

The Future of Silence: Fiction by Korean Women Translated and Edited by Bruce & Ju-Chan Fulton Zephyr Press, 2016, 193pp When an unexpected book-shaped package landed on my doormat in April 2016 I eagerly opened it, wondering what was inside. I was slightly less enthusiastic when I discovered that it was a collection of short stories […]

Read the full article →

Book review: Hwang Jungeun — One Hundred Shadows

by Philip Gowman 4 January 2017
Thumbnail image for Book review: Hwang Jungeun — One Hundred Shadows

Hwang Jungeun: One Hundred Shadows Translated by Jung Yewon Tilted Axis Press, 2016, 147pp Original published as 百의 그림자, Minumsa, 2010 The 2009 Yongsan apartment building disaster barely registered in the news media outside of Korea. But in its way it registered domestically much as the Sewol disaster did, acting as a rallying point against an […]

Read the full article →

Book review: Without You, There Is No Us

by Philip Gowman 15 December 2016
Thumbnail image for Book review: Without You, There Is No Us

Suki Kim: Without You, There Is No Us. Rider / Penguin Random House, 2015, 291pp I always come to books about the DPRK with a certain amount of reluctance, because there are far too many of them and I wonder what each successive book will have to say that is new. I approached this one […]

Read the full article →

Book review: Park Wan-suh — Lonesome You

by Philip Gowman 21 November 2016
Thumbnail image for Book review: Park Wan-suh — Lonesome You

Park Wan-suh: Lonesome You Translated by Elizabeth Haejin Yoon Dalkey Archive, 2015, 252pp Originally published as 너무도 쓸쓸한 당신, Seoul, 1998. I came to Lonesome You with fairly neutral expectations. I had read Who Ate All the Shinga, the story of Park’s childhood in the late 1940s and through the war years. It was an interesting […]

Read the full article →

Book Review: The Story of Hong Gildong

by Philip Gowman 18 November 2016
Thumbnail image for Book Review: The Story of Hong Gildong

Anon (attr Heo Kyun): The Story of Hong Gildong Translated with an introduction and notes by Minsoo Kang Penguin, 2016, 100pp Penguin has done us a favour by bringing us this new translation of a classic Korean tale, along with a useful introduction and notes. Hong Gildong is often described as the Korean Robin Hood […]

Read the full article →

Book review: Hwang Sun-won — Lost Souls

by Philip Gowman 30 August 2016
Thumbnail image for Book review: Hwang Sun-won — Lost Souls

Hwang Sun-won: Lost Souls Translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton Columbia University Press 2010, 354pp Having quite enjoyed two of Hwang Sun-won’s fuller-length stories – Trees on a Slope and Descendants of Cain – though without necessarily being enamoured of the characters of the stories they inhabited, I was looking forward to tackling Lost Souls, […]

Read the full article →

Book review: Cheon Myeong-kwan — Modern Family

by Philip Gowman 2 June 2016
Thumbnail image for Book review: Cheon Myeong-kwan — Modern Family

Cheon Myeong-kwan: Modern Family Translated by Kyoung-lee Park White Pine Press Korean Voices Series, 2015 Originally published as 고령화 가족 by Munhakdongne Publishing Corp, 2010 The KCC has been running its Korean Literature Nights for more than two years now. The discussion group has an enthusiastic and regular following, to the extent that seats have […]

Read the full article →

Why Han Kang’s Human Acts is likely to be my book of the year

by Philip Gowman 17 February 2016
Thumbnail image for Why Han Kang’s Human Acts is likely to be my book of the year

Han Kang: Human Acts Translated by Deborah Smith Portobello Books, 2016, 224pp Originally published as 소년이 온다, Changbi Publishers Inc, Seoul, 2014 Han Kang’s Human Acts hits the bookshelves in the UK just as The Vegetarian starts to make waves in the US. The latter book has already made its mark in the UK, making […]

Read the full article →

A look back at the books of 2015

by Philip Gowman 16 January 2016
Thumbnail image for A look back at the books of 2015

In place of our annual “LKL Awards” post, we look at some of the highlights of 2015 in the area of books, film and music. Apart from the field of literature in translation (and of course I’m talking Han Kang here), there are no clear winners or I haven’t covered enough ground to choose one. […]

Read the full article →

Double book review: two takes on Shin Sang-ok

by Philip Gowman 8 January 2016
Thumbnail image for Double book review: two takes on Shin Sang-ok

Paul Fischer: A Kim Jong-il Production Penguin / Viking 2015, 353pp Steven Chung: Split Screen Korea – Shin Sang-ok and Postwar Cinema University of Minnesota Press 2014, 262pp The story of actress Choi Eun-hee and Shin Sang-ok combines elements of both romance and thriller as well as representing important phases in the history of film […]

Read the full article →

Book review: Kim Namcheon – Scenes from the Enlightenment

by Philip Gowman 11 December 2015
Thumbnail image for Book review: Kim Namcheon – Scenes from the Enlightenment

Kim Namcheon — Scenes from the Enlightenment Translated by Charles La Shure Dalkey Archive, 2014, 254pp orignally published as 대하, Inmunsa 1939. A brief review, because this is a book I never finished. The blurb on the back of the book sums the contents up well: An account of seemingly trivial events – a wedding […]

Read the full article →

Book review: Hwang Sok-yong — Princess Bari

by Philip Gowman 7 December 2015
Thumbnail image for Book review: Hwang Sok-yong — Princess Bari

Hwang Sok-yong: Prices Bari Periscope, 2015, 240pp Translated by Sora Kim-Russell Originally published as 바리데기, 2007 Princess Bari is Hwang Sok-yong’s fourth full-length novel to be translated into English. It is also the most recent, having been originally published in 2007. And for a British audience it is one of the most immediately accessible, being […]

Read the full article →

Book Review: Cho Chongnae — How in Heaven’s Name

by Philip Gowman 4 December 2015
Thumbnail image for Book Review: Cho Chongnae — How in Heaven’s Name

Cho Chongnae: How in Heaven’s Name Translated by Bruce and Ju-chan Fulton Merwin Asia, 2012, 141 pages. Originally published as 오 하느님 (O God) and renamed 사람의 탈 (Human Mask) How in Heaven’s Name is an appropriate title for the mind-boggling story of how a group of Korean country lads came to be fighting in […]

Read the full article →