Translated by: Kim Mi-young, Stephen Epstein
Publisher: Cornell East Asia Series, 2010.
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Yang Gui-ja is one of Korea’s major literary figures of the last generation, with a succession of literary prizes and best-sellers to her credit. Her most representative early work, the 1987 Wonmi-dong saramdeul, is available in English as A Distant and Beautiful Place. In the 1990s her writing took an increasingly personal turn with a series of popular works including Contradictions (Mosun), South Korea’s best-selling novel in 1998.Contradictions is a coming-of-age tale that explores the paradoxes and contradictions of the human condition and delves into the meaning of personal happiness. The book opens with a moment of epiphany as the main character An Jin-jin awakens to the realization that her entire energy must be devoted to her own life. She struggles over whom to marry with an awareness of consequences gleaned from seeing the divergence in the lives of twin sisters–her mother and her aunt. A host of binary oppositions is also presented in the lives of the men around her: a wannabe gang boss brother, an Ivy League cousin, an alcoholic schizophrenic father, a steadfast but rigid uncle, and her two suitors. Yang skillfully develops these characters in increasingly complex threads as the novel unfolds in a series of surprises.Read a review by Charles Montgomery here. Read a review by Tony Malone here. Entry on Goodreads.com here.