2017 Korean Literature Nights

by Events Editor on 11 February, 2017

in Event Notices, KCCUK, Korean literature in translation

The KCC’s first Korean Literature Night of 2017 features another of Hwang Sun-mi’s short novels. And this year, the nights don’t clash with the film screenings.

2017 Korean Literature Nights

The Korean Literature Night (KLN) is a monthly discussion group, held on the last Wednesday evening of the month (apart from the first meeting), that explores various themes and topics relating to that month’s chosen book.

Entrance Free – Booking Essential. Apply to info@kccuk.org.uk or call 020 7004 2600 with your name and contact details. The booking system utilises a lottery based programme that picks names at random, once the final selection has been drawn we will send you an e-mail regarding the result of the selection. You can pick up a copy of the book from the KCCUK, once you have received your confirmation e-mail.

Available Seats: 15

28 Feb

Hwang Sun-mi: The Dog Who Dared To Dream (푸른 개 장발)

Abacus

About the Book

The dog who dared to dreamThis is the story of a dog named Scraggly. Born an outsider because of her distinctive appearance, she spends most of her days in the sun-filled yard of her owner’s house. Scraggly has dreams and aspirations just like the rest of us. But each winter, dark clouds descend and Scraggly is faced with challenges that she must overcome. Through the clouds and even beyond the gates of her owner’s yard lies the possibility of friendship, motherhood and happiness – they are for the taking if Scraggly can just hold on to them, bring them home and build the life she so desperately desires.

About the Author

Sun-mi Hwang is a beloved writer in South Korea, where she has won many awards and published more than forty books. The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly became an instant classic, and remained on the Korean bestseller list for ten years.

Reviews:

29 Mar

Song Sokze: The Amusing Life (재미나는 인생)

Dalkey Archive

About the Book

Amusing lifeThis is a collection of over forty stories, sketches, vignettes, and fables that search out the comical, even the absurd, aspects of everyday life. Along the way, work, art, nation, love, and family are examined and made new and strange. Two rival countries race to raise the tallest flag. A poet receives a grant letter that’s made to self-destruct. A world confederation of liars welcomes new members. Always instructive but never didactic, Song’s stories are characterized by a lightness of touch that allows laughter to accompany even the darkest truths in this collection

About the Author

Song Sokze was born in 1960 and studied law at University. His made his debut with the poem “A Man Wiping the Window” in Literature and Thought in 1986, he began writing fiction in 1994 with his collection of short stories, Where Bewilderment Lives. He received the Ch’ae Man-sik Literary Award in 2015 for his novel, The Invisible Man.

Reviews:

26 Apr

“Heo Kyun”: The Story of Hong Gildong (홍길동전)

Penguin Books

About the Book

The Story of Hong GildongHong Gildong, an illegitimate son of a noblemen and his lowborn concubine, is the main character of the story. Gifted with supreme intelligence and supernatural abilities, he steals from rich and corrupt aristocrats, which has drawn him comparisons to famous bandits like the English folk hero Robin Hood and Australia’s Ned Kelly. Historical sources point to the existence of a bandit named Hong Gildong who was arrested in 1500, however the character’s historical inspiration was the early 16th century Korean bandit and folk hero Im Kkeokjeong.

About the Author

The traditional but disputed author, Heo Kyun, was born in the city of Gangneung to Heo Yeop and his second wife (known only by her surname Kim 김). Heo’s family was of the noble (yangban) class (his father had been mayor of Gangneung) and as such Heo Kyun was afforded a solid education and in 1594 passed the nation’s highest civil service exam. Under the strong influence of his tutor, Yi Dal 李達, Heo Kyun became a progressive and liberal thinker who dreamed of establishing a more progressive society by eliminating all bigoted and conservative elements in the social, literary, and political realms. Heo went on to serve the government of Joseon in such positions as Minister of the Board of Punishment and State Councillor. In the course of his political career he was exiled several times for involvement in political feuds and was ultimately executed on charges of treason during the reign of Prince Gwanghae.

Reviews:

31 May

Han Kang: Human Acts (소년이 온다)

Portobello

About the Book

Han Kang Human ActsGwangju, South Korea, 1980. In the wake of a viciously suppressed student uprising, a boy searches for his friend’s corpse, a consciousness searches for its abandoned body, and a brutalised country searches for a voice. In a sequence of interconnected chapters the victims and the bereaved encounter censorship, denial, forgiveness and the echoing agony of the original trauma. Human Acts is a universal book, utterly modern and profoundly timeless. Already a controversial bestseller and award-winning book in Korea, it confirms Han Kang as a writer of immense importance.

About the Author

Han Kang was born in Gwangju, South Korea and moved to Seoul at the age of ten. She studied Korean literature at Yonsei University. Her novels have won the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today’s Young Artist Awards, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. Her critically acclaimed novel The Vegetarian is published by Portobello books and won the 2016 International Man Booker Prize. She currently teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.

Reviews:

28 Jun

Kim Hyesoon: I’m OK, I’m Pig! (피어라 돼지)

Bloodaxe

About the Book

Kim Hyesoon I'm OK I'm Pig!The full-length English language edition of one of the foremost poets in Modern Korean poetry. In her experimental work she explores women’s multiple and simultaneous existence as grandmothers, mothers, and daughters in the context of Korean society. According to Kim, ‘women poets oppose and resist their conditions, using unconventional forms of language because their resistance has led them to a language that is unreal, surreal, and even fantastical. The language of women’s poetry is internal, yet defiant and revolutionary’.

About the Author

Kim Hyesoon lives in Seoul and teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts. Kim began publishing in 1979 and was one of the first few women to be published in a literary journal, Munhak kwa jisŏng (Literature and Intellect). This journal and Ch’angjak kwa pip’yŏng (Creation and Criticism) were the two leaders of the intellectual and literary movement against the US-backed military dictatorships of Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan in the 1970s and 1980s.

Kim began to receive critical recognition from the late 1990s. She believes that the recognition of her work was due to the strong emergence of women’s poetry over the past few decades. Kim has won numerous literary prizes and was the first woman to receive the coveted Midang (2006) and Kim Su-yŏng (1998) awards named after two major contemporary poets. Midang was a poet who stood for ‘pure poetry’ (sunsusi) while Kim Su-yŏng”s poetry is closely associated with ‘engaged poetry’ (ch’amyŏsi) that displays historical consciousness.

In 2012 as part of the Cultural Olympiad for the London 2012 Olympic Games Hyesoon Kim joined the largest gathering of international poets in world history (140) to take part in the Poetry Parnassus at Southbank Centre.

26 Jul

Yi Kwang-su: Mujong (The Heartless) (무정)

University of Hawaii Press

About the Book

Mujong (The Heartless) is the story of a love triangle set during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Yi Hyông-sik is a young man in his mid-twenties who is teaching English at a middle school in Seoul. Brilliant but also shy and indecisive, he is torn between two women. Kim Sôn-hyông is from a wealthy Christian family; she has just graduated from a modern, Western-style school and is planning on continuing her studies in the United States. Pak Yông-ch’ae is a musically gifted young woman who was raised in a traditional Confucian manner; due to family misfortune, she has become a kisaeng (기생: (archaic) a female entertainer who pours drinks to guests and entertain them with songs and dances) but still remains devoted to Hyông-sik whom she knew as a child. Mujong goes beyond the level of romantic melodrama and uses these characters to depict Korea’s struggles with modern culture and national identity.

About the Author

Yi Kwang-su (1892-1950) was a fiction writer and essayist whose essays originally focused on the need for national consciousness. His fiction was among the first modern fiction in Korea and he is most famous for his novel, Mujong.

When the serialization of Mujong (The Heartless) began in 1917, it was an immediate sensation, and it occupies a prominent place in the Korean literary canon.
His career can be split into thirds. The first period, from 1910-19 featured a strong attack on Korea’s traditional society and the belief that Korea should adopt a more modern (“western”) worldview. From the early 20s to the 30’s Yi transformed into a dedicated nationalist and published a controversial essay, “On the Remaking of National Consciousness” which advocated a moral overhaul of Korea and blames Koreans for being defeatist. The third period, from the 30’s on, coincides with Yi’s conversion to Buddhism and his work consequently becomes quite Buddhist in tone. This was also the period in which, Yi became a Japanese collaborator.

Yi’s professional judgment could be as fickle as his politics. In one famous case he befriended then abandoned Korean “New Woman” writer Kim Myeong-sun arguably because his own beliefs about modernism had shifted.

Reviews:

30 Aug

Bae Suah — Recitation (서울의 낮은 언덕들)

Open Letter

About the Book

RecitationWith lyrical elegance, Recitation traces the intermingling lives of a mysterious wandering actress and a chorus of emigrants who meet by chance at a train station late one night, in Bae Suah’s fragmentary and contrapuntal meditation on travel, language, and memory. Kyung-hee, a former recitation actress living a stateless existence, recalls tails of unexpected friendships, mythical dreams, healers and shamans, and as her story unfolds, her voice begins to fade in a gradual unravelling of identity, overtaken by the chorus as they find themselves wondering what makes a person, and if Kyung-hee ever truly existed.

About the Author

Bae Suah, born in Seoul in 1965, is one of the most highly acclaimed contemporary Korean authors, with over ten short story collections and five novels to her name. She received the Hanguk Ilbo literary prize in 2003, and the Tongseo literary prize in 2004. She has also translated several books from the German, including works by W. G. Sebald, Franz Kafka, and Jenny Erpenbeck. Nowhere to be Found, translated by Sora Kim-Russell, was the first of her books to appear in English, and was longlisted for a PEN Translation Prize and the Best Translated Book Award.

Reviews:

27 Sep

Hwang Jungeun — One Hundred Shadows (백의 그림자)

Tilted Axis Press

About the book

One Hundred ShadowsOne Hundred Shadows is set in a slum electronics market in central Seoul – an area earmarked for demolition in a city better known for its shiny skyscrapers and slick pop videos. Here, the awkward, tentative relationship between Eungyo and Mujae, who both dropped out of formal education to work as repair-shop assistants, is made yet more uncertain by their economic circumstances, while their matter-of-fact discussion of a strange recent development – the shadows of the slum’s inhabitants have started to ‘rise’ – leaves the reader to make up their own mind as to the nature of this shape-shifting tale. Hwang’s spare prose is illuminated by arresting images, quirky dialogue and moments of great lyricism, crafting a deeply affecting novel of perfectly calibrated emotional restraint. Known for her interest in social minorities, Hwang eschews the dreary realism usually employed for such issues, without her social criticism being any less keen. As well as an important contribution to contemporary working-class literature, One Hundred Shadows depicts the little-known underside of a society which can be viciously superficial, complicating the shiny, ultra-modern face which South Korea presents to the world.

About the author

Born in 1976, Hwang Jungeun is one of the bright young things of Korean literature, having published two collections of short stories and three novels to date. One Hundred Shadows (2010), her first novel, was both a critical and commercial success; its mix of oblique fantasy, hard-edge social critique, and offbeat romance garnered the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award and the Korean Booksellers’ Award.

Reviews

25 Oct

Lee Seung-u — The Private Life of Plants (식물들의 사생활)

Dalkey Archive

About the Book

The Private Life of Plants The Private Life of Plants is about the ways in which desire can both worsen and mitigate our flaws. We meet brothers who love their brother’s lovers, and whose lovers in turn are stolen away by the husbands of their sisters. Sexuality in all its ugliness and wonder is put under the microscope by Lee Seung-u, who reminds us that love may come in various forms, but that it is, nonetheless, a force that unifies us all . . . whether we like it or not.

About the Author

Lee Seung-u was born in Jangheung, Jeollanam-do in 1959. Lee Seung-u graduated from Seoul Theological University and studied at Yonsei University Graduate School of Theology. One of the outstanding writers to have emerged in South Korea after the political repression of the 1980s, he is today professor of Korean Literature at Chosun University. Lee’s literary career started with his novel A Portrait of Erysichton, which was triggered by his shock at the assassination attempt of Pope Paul II in 1981. This work received the New Writers Award from Korean Literature Monthly. In 1993, Lee’s The Reverse Side of Life was awarded the 1st Daesan Literary Award and he has also received East West Literature Prize for I Will Live Long, the Contemporary Literature Award for Fiction and the Hwang Sun-won Literary Award.

29 Nov

Pyun Hye-Young — Evening Proposal (저녁의 구애)

Dalkey Archive

About the Book

Pyun Hye young Evening ProposalEvening Proposal is a collection of eight stories about the grim and often faceless nature of urban life. Faintly reminiscent of Franz Kafka, the stories range from a man who discovers that his job performance has no significance while taking refuge in taking care of an abandoned rabbit to a man who finally expresses his love to discover that his expression frightened him more than his fear in anticipating the event. Evening Proposal reissues the warning that the orderliness and system that civilization created in order to confront nature’s chaos are in fact failed projects, deadening the very human being they are meant to protect.

About the Author

Pyun Hye-young debuted when she won the Seoul Shinmun New Writer’s Contest in 2000 with the short story “Shaking of Dew.” Her major works include the short story collections Mallow Gardens (2005), Heading for a Breeding Farm (2007), Evening Proposal (2011), Night Passes (2013) and novels such as Ashes and Red (2010), They Went to the Forest in the West (2012), and The Law of Lines (2015). She won the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award and the Dong-in Literary Award.

Reviews:

(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: