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Everlasting Empire

Translated by:
Publisher: , 2002
Original title: 영원한 제국, 1993
Link to online store *

From the publisher’s website:

Everlasting Empire (영원한 제국) is a Korean historical novel written as a murder mystery. The narrator frames the main story with his “discovery” of a 150-year-old manuscript. Because of problems verifying the authenticity of the manuscript, the narrator offers the book not as genuine history but as a story. This compelling tale is set at a pivotal moment in Korean history, when the nation’s last strong king was attempting to consolidate the authority of the monarchy against the dangerous encumbrance of bureaucratic factional infighting and when Western ideas were beginning to infiltrate Korea. It is an absorbing account of life at a Confucian court. The original Korean edition (1993) was a bestseller in Korea, selling more than one million copies. In was published in French translation (2000) and was made into a feature length film which collected six prestigious Grand Bell Awards.

Yi In-hwa is the pen name of You Chul-gun, a professor of Korean Language and Literature at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. He received the first Writers’ World Literature Award for his novel Who Can Say What I Am? in 1992. He is also the recipient of the Korean government’s 1995 Today’s Young Artist Award and the Chinese government’s first Korea-China Youth scholarship award. In 2000, Yi received the prestigious Yi Sang award for his short story “A Poet’s Star.”

Yu Young-nan has translated several Korean works into English, including The Naked Tree, by Pak Wan-so. Her translations of Yi Mu-yong’s “Lesson One, Chapter One” and Farmers received the Korean Modern Literature Translation Award.

Winner of the 2002 Daesan Foundation Prize for Outstanding Literary Translation

“[Yi In-hwa] has achieved a goal that eludes most authors of historical fiction: He has created a tale so plausible that it can almost pass for the work of a historian rather than a novelist. Even though the events that form the core of his novel did not actually take place — they could have. This novel [is] more than just a riveting work of fiction … it also … opens a window into the turbulent world of Chosen dynasty politics, in which political disagreements often had deadly consequences.

“. . . Yi In-hwa has captured the rivalries, cruelty, and treachery on Chongjo’s Seoul with a vividness equaled by few historical records or even historians’ reconstructions. If one of the goals of the study of history is, and I believe it is, to open doors into the past so that we step back in time and experience the world of our predecessors on this planet, Everlasting Empire is an effective door opener. I recommend it to anyone who wants to experience political intrigue on the Korean peninsula two centuries ago.”
from the Introduction by Don Baker

LKL says:

A cracking Joseon Dynasty mystery / thriller which also manages to help explain some of the doctrinal and factional differences at court in the 18th century.

LKL rating: score-2score-2score-2score-2score-1. Read our review of this book here.

Entry on here.

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