Translated by: Ok Young Kim Chang
Publisher: Peter Owen, 2011.
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Sopyonje is a disturbing and haunting novel set in Korea s southern provinces and among the pansori singers, practitioners of the ancient storytelling art where blindness is seen to be an aid to creating pure art, being free of sensory distraction and temptation. A Song man causes his daughter blindness in order to keep her from following her half-brother, who ran away unable to keep up with the rigorous training The daughter forgives her father before his death and through this act of forgiveness, she deepens her insight into the nature of human existence, enriching her own soul, and as her father had insisted would happen finally elevating the art of her pansori singing. Many years later the half-brother, now an aimless wanderer, returns looking for his sister and finds her in a tavern. He asks her to sing for him, and with his drum accompaniment, the two half-siblings perform all through the night. This is the beginning of a truly unforgettable climax to the strangest and most beautiful of novels exploring the themes of forgiveness, the redemptive power of art, and modern man’s loss of innocence and the alienation from traditional values.
LKL adds: the titles of the five interconnected stories (originally published in 1975) are:
Bird and Tree
Immortal Crane Village
The Light of Songs
The Rebirth of Words
Yi Chong-jun is Korean literature’s best-kept secret, and Seopyeonje is possibly the most famous work thanks to Im Kwon-taek’s two very moving screen adaptations. A powerful set of five interlinked stories about the vanishing art of pansori.
LKL rating:Entry on Goodreads.com here.