Book Reviews

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 […]

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A look back at the books of 2015

by Philip Gowman 16 January 2016
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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. […]

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Double book review: two takes on Shin Sang-ok

by Philip Gowman 8 January 2016
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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 […]

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Book review: Kim Namcheon – Scenes from the Enlightenment

by Philip Gowman 11 December 2015
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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 […]

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Book review: Hwang Sok-yong — Princess Bari

by Philip Gowman 7 December 2015
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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 […]

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

by Philip Gowman 4 December 2015
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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 […]

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Book Review: Ahn Do-hyun — The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher

by Philip Gowman 28 November 2015
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Ahn Do-hyun: The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher Panmacmillan 2015, 122pp Translated by Deborah Smith Originally published as 연어, Munhakdongne, 1996. Ahn Do-hyun is a bestselling poet and this is his first novel to be translated into English. The English title for this translation is an interesting one – clearly echoing the English title […]

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Book review: Han Kang — The Vegetarian

by Philip Gowman 26 November 2015
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Han Kang: The Vegetarian Translated by Deborah Smith Portobello Books, 2015, 183pp Originally published as 채식주의자, Seoul 2007 Sometimes, reading translated Korean literature can be a bit of a private affair. You read it, you maybe enjoy it and appreciate it, but you think twice about recommending it to a non Koreaphile; or if you […]

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Book review: Shin Kyung-sook — I’ll be right there

by Philip Gowman 24 August 2015
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Shin Kyung-sook: I’ll Be Right There Translated by Sora Kim-Russell Other Press, New York, 2014, 325pp Originally published as 어디선가 나를 찾는 전화벨이 울리고, Somewhere A Phone Is Ringing For Me, 2010 There are people who liked Shin Kyung-sook’s most famous work – Please Look After Mother – and those that didn’t. In the latter […]

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Brief book review: Mark James Russell — Young-hee and the Pullocho

by Philip Gowman 17 July 2015
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Mark James Russell: Young-hee and the Pullocho Tuttle Publishing, 2015, 258pp So annoying. I get sent a review copy of a work of fiction. I warn them that I probably won’t have time to read it properly, but promise to do my best to have a quick flick through it and to write a polite notice […]

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I think I just don’t get Park Kyung-ni

by Philip Gowman 19 April 2015
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Having failed to make much headway with Park Kyung-ni’s T’oji / Land, I thought I might give her Curse of Kim’s Daughters a try, in preparation for a re-watch of Yu Hyun-mok’s film adaptation of the novel. I didn’t particularly enjoy the movie the first time I saw it. But then, so far I haven’t […]

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Book review: Park Min-gyu — Pavane for a Dead Princess

by Philip Gowman 7 April 2015
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Park Min-gyu: Pavane for a Dead Princess Translated by Amber Hyun Jung Kim Dalkey Archive, 2014, 262pp Originally published as 죽은 왕녀를 위한 파반느, 2009 Park Min-gyu’s Pavane for a Dead Princess is the first in Dalkey Archive’s second set (of five volumes) of their Library of Korean Literature. Even though I’ve only had time […]

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Pak Chiwon’s Jehol Diary: An amiable bore abroad

by Philip Gowman 30 March 2015
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Pak Chiwon: The Jehol Diary Translated with notes by Yang Hi Choe-Wall Global Oriental 2010, 208pp The Jehol Diary is a contemporary account of one of the regular journeys from Joseon Korea to Qing China bearing tribute to the emperor. The journey described in this diary took place in 1780, and was ordered by King Jeongjo […]

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Evelyn Glennie’s musical journey in Korea

by Philip Gowman 17 March 2015
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Percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie has just been in the news for winning the Polar Music Prize 2015 along with Emmylou Harris. The award, according to its website, is “one of the most prestigious and unique music prizes in the world, crossing over musical boundaries and awarded to individuals, groups and institutions in recognition of exceptional […]

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Book review: Lee Jung-myung — The Investigation

by Philip Gowman 10 December 2014
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Lee Jung-myung: The Investigation Translated by Kim Chi-young Mantle, 2014, 288pp The central character in The Investigation is a real historical figure: Yun Dong-ju, a poet who had the misfortune to live in the Japanese colonial period. There can be few worse fates for a poet than to be prohibited from writing in his native […]

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Book review: Haïlji — The Republic of Užupis

by Philip Gowman 8 December 2014
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Haïlji: The Republic of Užupis Translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton Dalkey Archive 2014. 160pp Originally published as 우주피스 공화국, Minumsa, 2009. Imagine what Haruki Murakami might come up with in a collaboration with David Lynch, after watching a few monster-free episodes of Doctor Who, and you might get an inkling of what to expect […]

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Book review: Kim Joo-young — Stingray

by Philip Gowman 1 December 2014
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Kim Joo-young: Stingray Dalkey Archive 2013, 124pp Translated by Inrae You Vinciguerra and Louis Vinciguerra. Originally published as 홍어, Munidang, Seoul, 1998 Stingray has the accolade of being allocated #1 in Dalkey Archive‘s set of 10 Korean novels translated into English. It happens to be the third I’ve picked up. The first two were real […]

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