Here are the Korean Literature Nights scheduled for 2015 at the KCC:
|Wed 25 Feb||The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Moderator: Deborah SmithYeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more ‘plant-like’ existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares. In South Korea, where vegetarianism is almost unheard-of and societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision is a shocking act of subversion. Her passive rebellion manifests in ever more bizarre and frightening forms, leading her bland husband to self-justified acts of sexual sadism. His cruelties drive her towards attempted suicide and hospitalisation. She unknowingly captivates her sister’s husband, a video artist. She becomes the focus of his increasingly erotic and unhinged artworks, while spiralling further and further into her fantasies of abandoning her fleshly prison and becoming – impossibly, ecstatically – a tree. Fraught, disturbing and beautiful, The Vegetarian is a novel about modern day South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another. [LKL review here]
|Wed 25 Mar||Nine Cloud Dream by Kim Man-jung
Moderator: Eugene Lee (PhD/ SOAS Korean Lit.)The reader must lay aside all Western notions of morality if they are to thoroughly enjoy this book. ‘The Cloud Dream of the Nine’ is one of the most prominent novels of traditional Korea, written by Kim during his second exile from political life. It is a novel dealing with the affairs of life and is centred on the travails of the hero Seong-jin. It has a highly Buddhist overtone, with an emphasis on the transience of worldly glory and pleasure The story of the devotion of Master Yang to eight women and of their devotion to him and to each other is more than a naive tale of the relations of men and women under a social code so far removed from our own as to be almost incredible. This novel is a revelation of what the Oriental thinks and feels not only about things of the earth but about the hidden things of the Universe.
|Wed 29 Apr||Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-gyu
Moderator: Elizabeth E. Grace (PhD/University of Cambridge, Japanese and Korean Cultural History)Following the relationship between a man with matinee-idol good looks and “the ugliest woman of the century,” Pavane for a Dead Princess examines how contemporary Korea’s obsession with beauty is its popular culture’s newest canker.
Both celebrated and condemned for his attacks upon what he perceives as the humorlessness of contemporary Korean literature, author Park Min-gyu uses a myriad of references to Western music and art, and the addition of a ‘writer’s cut,’ to suggest various ways of looking at his country’s extreme aesthetic fetishization. [LKL review here]
|Fri 29 May||The Naked Tree by Park Wan-suh
Moderator: Elizabeth E. Grace (PhD/University of Cambridge, Japanese and Korean Cultural History)A coming-of-age novel set during the Korean War, by Park Wan-Suh. Park often deals with the themes of Korean War tragedies, middle-class values and women’s issues. The novel is rich with scenes of cultural clashes, racial prejudice, and the kinds of misunderstandings that many UN soldiers and Koreans experienced during the war years.
|Wed 24 Jun||The House with a Sunken Courtyard by Kim Won-il
This is an occasionally terrifying and always vivid portrayal of what it was like to live as a refugee immediately after the end of the Korean War. This novel is based on the author’s own experience in his early teens in Daegu, in 1954, and depicts six families that survive the hard times together in the same house. Weathering the tiny conflicts of interest and rivalries that spring up in such close quarters, they nonetheless offer one another sympathy and encouragement as fellow sufferers of the same national misfortune.
|Wed 29 Jul||The Soil by Yi Kwang-suA major, never before translated novel by the author of Mujong/The heartless-often called the first modern Korean novel-The Soil tells the story of an idealist dedicating his life to helping the inhabitants of the rural community in which he was raised. Striving to influence the poor farmers of the time to improve their lots, become self-reliant, and thus indirectly change the reality of colonial life on the Korean peninsula, The Soil was vitally important to the social movement of the time, echoing the effects and reception of such English-language novels as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.|
|Wed 26 Aug||I’ll Be Right There by Shin Kyung-sook
Set in 1980s South Korea amid the tremors of political revolution, I’ll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate, 20-something-year-old woman, as she recounts her tragic personal history as well as those of her three intimate college friends. When Yoon receives a distressing phone call from her ex-boyfriend after eight years of separation, memories of a tumultuous youth begin to resurface, forcing her to re-live the most intense period of her life. [LKL review here]
|Tue 29 Sep||Three Generations By Yom Sang-seopTouted as one of Korea’s most important works of fiction, Three Generations charts the tensions in the Jo family in 1930s Japanese occupied Seoul. Delving deeply into each character’s history and beliefs, the writer illuminates the diverse pressures and impulses driving each. This Korean classic reveals the country’s situation under Japanese rule, the traditional Korean familial structure, and the battle between the modern and the traditional. [Brief LKL review here]|
|Wed 28 Oct||The Square by Choi In-hun|
|Wed 25 Nov||Another Man’s City by Choe In-ho|
(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.