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Hwang Sok-yong returns to London

Hwang Sok-yong with Maya Jaggi (L) and Dr Grace Koh
Hwang Sok-yong with Maya Jaggi (L) and Dr Grace Koh

A little over a year after the London Book Fair, at which his Vietnam war novel The Shadow of Arms was launched, Hwang Sok-yong returned to London to launch Sora Kim-Russell’s translation of his 2007 novel Princess Bari. Hwang appeared at Asia House today for a book-signing and conversation with Guardian literary critic Maya Jaggi, assisted by Dr Grace Koh from SOAS.

The conversation was of traditional shaman tales and travelling storytellers, of migrants and homelessness, of London’s 7/7 bombings, Parisian riots, and of North Korea.

We learned that the film rights for Princess Bari have been sold to Hollywood – something to look forward to (any suggestions as to who should play the lead?); and we learned that when Hwang was in prison and his son visited to ask Hwang’s blessing on his relationship with a daughter from a shaman family, Hwang told him to get on with it and not wait till he got out of jail: she might not wait that long.

Later Hwang was joined by former poet laureate Andrew Motion, and later this week he will be celebrating the launch of Princess Bari with publishers Periscope, for whom this is their first book.

As the publishers comment on Princess Bari:

It’s impossible to avoid falling in love with Hwang’s resilient heroine. This novel revels in the power of myth amidst the grim events of its characters’ lives, but Bari herself is hauntingly real. Her story is by turns tense, moving, sad and uplifting.

Hwang Sok-yong appeared as part of the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival 2015 on 13 May 2015.

Princess Bari cover

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