Is this the only modern Korea-related novel published by Penguin Classics?

by Philip Gowman on 22 June, 2011 updated 18 November, 2017

in 1945-1960 | General book news | Novels in English

The number of Korea-related publications in the Penguin Classics list can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand, and most are by ancient Confucian sages. The publisher’s blurb below says that if you like Lee Changrae’s The Surrendered you’ll like this: Richard E Kim’s The Martyred. Lee didn’t do a good sales job when he came to the Asia House Festival of Asian Literature two years ago, so I’ve never invested in his Korean War novel. But judging by the synopsis below the subject matter, The Martyred would appeal to someone who enjoyed Hwang Sok-yong’s The Guest or even something more sophisticated in terms of French existentialists. I just bought myself a copy in Barnes & Noble 5th Avenue, to add to my ever-growing reading pile.

The MartyredPenguin Classics proudly presents the New York Times bestseller and National Book Award Finalist back in print for the first time in twenty-five years…

THE MARTYRED

Richard E. Kim

With an introduction by Heinz Insu Fenkl
and a foreword by Susan Choi

PRAISE FOR THE MARTYRED:
“Written in a mood of total austerity; and yet the passion of the book is perpetually beating up against its seemingly barren surface…I am deeply moved.”
―Philip Roth

“An extraordinary book. To take one incident and through it express the universal need of the human heart for God…the agony of doubt combined with the longing to believe, is difficult indeed. Kim has accomplished just this.”
―Pearl S. Buck

“Kim’s book stands out as one written in the great moral and psychological tradition of Job, Dostoevsky, and Albert Camus…it is a magnificent achievement, and it will last.
―The New York Times Book Review

RICHARD KIM’s breathtaking novel, THE MARTYRED (Penguin Classics; ISBN: 978-0-14-310640-1; On-Sale 31 May 2011; $16.00; 240 pages; also available as an e-book), begins during the early weeks of the Korean War. Captain Lee, a young South Korean officer, is ordered to investigate the kidnapping and mass murder of North Korean ministers by Communist forces. For propaganda purposes, the priests are declared martyrs, but as he delves into the crime, Lee finds himself asking: what if they are not martyrs? What if they renounced their faith in the face of death, failing both God and country? Should the people be fed this lie? Part thriller, part mystery, part existential treatise, THE MARTYRED is a stunning meditation on truth, religion, and faith in the time of crisis.

THE MARTYRED is a moving modern classic that will appeal to fans of Chang-Rae Lee’s The Surrendered, and its publication is timed to coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War (June 1950 to July 1953). It also follows the recent publication of the fortieth anniversary edition of Richard Kim’s LOST NAMES from University of California Press (ISBN: 9780520268128; on sale: March 2011; $18.95).

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Richard E. Kim
(1932-2009) was born Kim Eun Kook in Hamheung, Korea. After an honorable discharge from the Republic of South Korea’s army, he immigrated to the United States, where he rose to prominence as an academic and a writer of novels, including The Innocent and Lost Names.

Heinz Insu Fenkl is the director of the creative writing program at the State University of New York, New Paltz.

Susan Choi is the author of A Person of Interest, The Foreign Student, and American Woman, a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.

THE MARTYRED
by Richard E. Kim with an introduction by Heinz Insu Fenkl and a foreword by Susan Choi
Penguin Classics ♦ 978-0-14-310640-1 ♦ On-Sale 5/31/11♦ $16.00 ♦ 240 pages
Also available as an e-book.

Please visit:
http://www.richardekim.com/
http://us.penguingroup.com.

There is a 1965 film of the book made by Yu Hyun-mok called The Martyrs (순교자), according to Mark Morris one of the best Korean War films of the 1960s, but alas still unavailable with English subtitles on DVD. From recollection it screened at the London Korean Film Festival a couple of years ago in a depressing (aren’t they all?) Yu Hyun-mok double bill – but I had to retire hurt after the first film (Kim’s Daughters) so never got to see it.

According to Jane Kim, a Ph.D.Candidate in Korean History from UCLA:

When the novel was released, it aroused much ire from some of the conservative Korean protestant pastors who felt that the novel did not accurately portray the martyrdom of the Korean Christians who have been killed by the North Korean communists in particular.

They organized fundraising campaigns to produce a biopic of Pastor Son Yangweon, the former pastor for Aeyangwon Leprosarium in Yeosu to show what true Korean Christian martyr looked like. The film was ultimately made in 1977.

Pastor Son Yangwon of course, had been killed by North Korean communist during the Korean War and his two sons purported killed by Communist guerillas during the Yosun Incident of 1948.

Once I’ve got through the top layers of my reading pile, I’ll post a review of this novel. But just a few days ago I also bought a copy of Richard E Kim’s Lost Names, which will probably get a review before then. Right now though, I’m in the middle of Don Kirk’s biography of DJ.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

SHOUVIK DATTA June 25, 2011 at 10:17 pm

THIS IS A VERY WELCOME STEP BY THE LONDON-BASED PENGUIN TO PUBLISH THIS WORK. IN LONDON, I HAVE NOT YET ENCOUNTERED MUCH LITERATURE TRANSLATED FROM KOREAN INTO ENGLISH. THE ONLY TRANSLATED KOREAN LITERATURE I HAVE READ IS “THREE GENERATIONS” BY YOM SANG-SEOP; THE COPY THAT I HAVE WAS PUBLISHED BY THE US HOUSE, ARCHIPELAGO BOOKS. I THINK THAT KOREAN LITERATURE STILL REMAINS A LARGELY UNEXPLORED AREA IN THE WEST TODAY?

Philip June 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Check out some of our snippets, articles and reviews of Korean literature in translation here: http://londonkoreanlinks.net/category/books/literature-in-korean/
And also check out Charles Montgomery’s http://www.ktlit.com/

SHOUVIK DATTA June 26, 2011 at 4:34 pm

HI, THANKS VERY MUCH. I THOUGHT THEY WERE GOOD REVIEWS ON THE WEBSITE. ITIS GOOD THAT THERE ARE UK-BASED PUBLISHERS LIKE GLOBAL ORIENTAL AND WEIDENFELD AND NICOLSON THAT ARE LOOKING AT KOREAN CULTURE IN DEPTH. THE ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA ALSO HAS A GOOD ARTICLE ON KOREAN LITERATURE. I LIKED “ROYAL ANCESTORS, ANCIENT REMEDIES” (ESPECIALLY ON HWANG BUYNG-GI AND ALSO THE KOREAN LITERATURE PROJECT).

Philip June 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Glad you enjoyed Royal Ancestors. I had great fun writing it, and meeting Hwang Byung-gi was a real privilege.

Michael Rank January 1, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I think this distinctly obscure classic was written in English, is that right? Have added it to my (vast) reading list.

Philip Gowman January 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Yes, it was written in English. And it was one of my most enjoyable reads of 2011 http://londonkoreanlinks.net/2011/11/29/richard-e-kim-the-martyred/

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