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Upcoming literature and fiction titles for 2019

2019 fiction banner

Here’s my first attempt at compiling a list of fiction and poetry titles coming up in 2019. Let me know what I’ve missed. Unlike my separate list of non-fiction I have not exercised any editorial control here: this is everything I have been able to find. The list is in four parts:

  1. Modern and contemporary fiction in translation
  2. Pre-modern fiction in translation
  3. Fiction in English
  4. Poetry (translated and in English)

1. Modern and contemporary fiction

2019 literature in translation pt 1

So, the dream team of Kim Young-ha and Krys Lee is obviously the book I’m most looking forward to this year, particularly as the title story is the one that inspired the movie Memoir of a Murderer. I quite liked the movie, but the source novella is said to be infinitely better.

Another headline publication this year is Readymade Bodhisattva, an anthology of thirteen science and speculative fiction tales by Bok Geo-il, Choi In-hun, Djuna, Jeong Soyeon, Kim Bo-young, Kim Changgyu, Kim Jung-hyuk, Kim Young-ha, Lim Taewoon, Mun Yunseong, Park Seonghwan, Park Min-gyu and Yun I-hyeong. Generously filled at 528 pages, UK readers will need to wait until September, though the book is available in the US from January (if you believe or March (if you believe the publisher).

2019 literature in translation pt 2

From Tilted Axis Press comes a novel from a zainichi Korean (lovely-looking cover), and from Fourth Estate comes another new name: Lee Ji-min (and another good cover). Meanwhile, The Plotters finally makes it to the UK (though why Fourth Estate thought the new cover is an improvement on Text Publications’ original design is a mystery), and the UK release of The Court Dancer appears to be imminent, though with Amazon not listing a price yet I’m not holding my breath.


2 extra titles

It’s great that the coverage of names in translation seems to be getting broader. Thanks to Paul Fulcher for drawing to my attention the titles by Kim Yideum and Ha Seong-nan, which are now included in the list below.

Author Title Month Order
Shin Kyung-sook (tr Anton Hur) The Court Dancer
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Pegasus
Based on a remarkable true story, the New York Times bestselling author of Please Look After Mother brilliantly imagines the life of Yi Jin, an orphan who would fall under the affections of the Empress and become a jewel in the late Joseon Court.
Kim Un-su (tr Sora Kim-Russell) The Plotters
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Fourth Estate
A thriller like you’ve never read one before, from the hottest new voice in Korean fiction
‘Kill Bill meets Murakami’ D. B. John, author of Star of the North
Kim Yideum (tr Ji yoon Lee) Blood Sisters
Paperback: 250 pages
Publisher: Deep Vellum Publishing
Blood Sisters tells the story of Jeong Yeoul, a young Korean college student in the 1980’s, when the memory of President Chun Doohwan’s violent suppression of student demonstrations against martial law was still fresh. Kim Yideum captures with raw honesty the sense of dread felt by many Korean women during this time as Jeong struggles in a swirl of misguided desires and hopelessness against a society distorted by competing ideologies, sexual violence, and cultural conservatism.
Ha Seong-Nan (tr Janet Hong) Flowers of Mold & Other Stories
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Open Letter
On the surface, Ha Seong-Nan’s stories seem pleasant enough, yet there’s always something disturbing just below the surface, ready to permanently disrupt the characters’ lives.
Yu Miri (tr Morgan Giles) Tokyo Ueno Station
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Tilted Axis Press
“Yu Miri uses her outsider’s perspective as a Zainichi (Korean-Japanese) writer to craft a novel of utmost importance to this moment, a powerful rebuke to the Imperial system and a sensitive, deeply felt depiction of the lives of Japan’s most vulnerable people.”
Kim Young-Ha (tr Krys Lee) Diary of a Murderer: And Other Stories
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books
Diary of a Murderer: And Other Stories is master short story writer Young-ha Kim’s first collection ever to be published in English. His work has been compared to the novels of Haruki Murakami, Raymond Chandler, and Albert Camus, and he has earned a reputation as the most talented and prolific Korean writer of his generation.
Lee Ji-min (tr Kim Chi-young) Marilyn and Me
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Fourth Estate
“Alice [Marilyn Monroe’s interpreter during her tour in Korea], raw and wry and wearing her grief like armour, is a wonderful character, and her experiences offer a fascinating – and timely – insight into an extraordinary time and place. We are thrilled to be publishing this darkly beautiful novel.”
Various Readymade Bodhisattva
Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Kaya Production, U.S.
Readymade Bodhisattva: The Kaya Anthology of South Korean Science Fiction presents the first book-length English-language translation of science and speculative fiction from South Korea, bringing together 13 classic and contemporary stories from the 1960s through to the 2010s.

2. Pre-modern fiction

2018 pre-modern literature
An interesting-looking collection of classical literature, though at £74.50 for the hardback I might hesitate (and this isn’t one I’d get on a Kindle, though at £23.74 it’s somewhat more affordable).

I mistakenly thought Nine Cloud Dream was coming out in 2018. In fact it’s currently scheduled for May 2019. A version of the text has been translated before, by Richard Rutt in the RASKB’s collection Virtuous Women, but I’m particularly looking forward to this version for the new introduction and notes from Heinz Insu Fenkl.

Author Title Month Order
So Kojong (tr James B. Lewis, Xin Wei) Korea’s Premier Collection of Classical Literature: Selections from So Kojong’s Tongmunson (Korean Classics Library: Historical Materials)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: University of Hawai’i Press
This is the first book in English to offer an extensive introduction to the Tongmunson (Selections of Refined Literature of Korea) – the largest and most important Korean literary collection created prior to the twentieth century – as well as translations of essays from key chapters.
Kim Man-Jung (tr Heinz Insu Fenkl) The Nine Cloud Dream
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics
A Buddhist journey reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno exploring the illusions of human life, published here in the first new translation in forty years

3. Fiction in English

2018 fiction in English
I enjoyed Hannah Michell’s debut, The Defections, so of course I’m looking forward to A Buried Life. But I confess that I was not previously acquainted with “the father of Korean American literature” so Younghill Kang’s East Goes West is a priority for me.

Most of Lisa See’s previous work has been set in China. She is probably best known for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which was made into a movie starring Jeon Ji-hyun.

Finally, a trio of novels by Americans of Korean heritage, for which I’m indebted to an article by R.O. Kwon in Electric Literature, where you can find out more about these titles and many other upcoming publications.

Korean American books 2019

Author Title Month Order
Lisa See The Island of Sea Women
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Scribner Book Company
A new novel from Lisa See, the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, about female friendship and family secrets on a small Korean island.
Angie Kim Miracle Creek
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author’s own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life “submarine” patient. Both a compelling page-turner and an excavation of identity and the desire for connection, Miracle Creek is a brilliant, empathetic debut from an exciting new voice.
Susan Choi Trust Exercise
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Captivating and brilliant, Trust Exercise is a novel about the treacherous terrain of adolescence, how we define consent, and what we lose, gain, and never get over as we navigate our way into adulthood’s mysterious structures of sex and power.
Younghill Kang East Goes West
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books
“A wonderfully resplendent evocation of a newcomer’s America” (Chang-rae Lee, author of Native Speaker) by the father of Korean American literature
Hannah Michell A Buried Life
Print Length: 336 pages
Publisher: riverrun
Sae met her husband in a riot. As student protesters in the eighties, they railed against the corporations that led South Korea out of post-war depression. Now, with two children, her hard-hitting journalism behind her, she waits for Jae to come home from work. And waits.[Update: as of mid 2022, this title has not yet been published and is no longer listed on Amazon’s UK site]
Catherine Chung The Tenth Muse
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown
‘Arresting in scope and its treatment of time, its prose at turns crystalline and richly balletic, this story pulls puzzle from puzzle – human, historical and all too contemporary’ Helen Oyeyemi

4. Poetry

2018 poetry books

Bandi’s collection of short stories was one of my picks of 2017, so the selection of his poetry is at the top of my list for 2019. You can listen to a podcast interview with Emily Jungmin Yoon, translator of Tilted Axis’s new collection and author of her own collections, on New Books Network. Finally, I think this is Kim Hyesoon’s fourth collection to appear in English.

Author Title Month Order
Kim Hyesoon (tr Don Mee Choi) Autobiography of Death
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
The title section of Kim Hyesoon’s powerful new book, Autobiography of Death, consists of forty-nine poems, each poem representing a single day during which the spirit roams after death before it enters the cycle of reincarnation.
tr Emily Jungmin Yoon Against Healing: Nine Korean Poets (Translating Feminisms)
Publisher: Tilted Axis
Translating Feminisms showcases intimate collaborations and conversations between some of Asia’s most exciting women writers and emerging-star translators: contemporary poetry of labour and language, alongside essays exploring how, where and by whom feminist writing and female bodies are translated.
Feb Tilted Axis logo
Emily Jungmin Yoon A Cruelty Special to Our Species: Poems
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Ecco Press; Reprint edition
A piercing debut collection of poems exploring gender, race, and violence from a sensational new talent
Bandi (tr Heinz Insu Fenkl) The Red Years: Forbidden Poems from Inside North Korea
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Zed Books
As he did in his first work The Accusation, Bandi here gives us a rare glimpse into everyday life and survival in North Korea. Singularly poignant and evocative, The Red Years stands as a testament to the power of the human spirit to endure and resist even the most repressive of regimes.

4 thoughts on “Upcoming literature and fiction titles for 2019

  1. Great list.

    Two other fiction works I am looking forward to are Flowers of Mold & Other Stories, by Ha Seong-Nan, translated by Janet Hong from Open Letter, and Blood Sisters by Kim Yideum, translated by Ji yoon Lee form Deep Vellum. Both are US publishers but books available in UK via Amazon

  2. A few there I’m keen to see (especially the classics and the new Kim Young-ha – even if I’m less enthusiastic about that particular writer-translator combo than you are…), but as poetry and Korean-American writing don’t enthuse me, I’ll reserve my judgement on this year’s crop 😉

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