Author: Hwang Sun-won, Lee Beomseon
Translated by: Choe Chol-li, Edward D Rockstein, Edward W Poitras, Kim Chong-chol, Kim Chong-un, Kim Se-yong, Norman Thorpe, Pak Kyu-so, Sister Janice Vere Hilburn, Song Yo-in, Vreni Merriam
Publisher: Pace, 1983.
Link to online store *
Hwang Sun-won’s stories depict various emotional experiences of brief moments of human life in an outstandingly elegant style. The elegance, however, is not the characterizing quality of his style alone. We find it in his description of scenes and momentary feelings of characters as well as in his presentation of themes that range from the smaller matters of quotidian life to bigger themes such as the severity of fate. The elegance is also the up-lifting quality in his manner of enclosing these themes in an immaculately-knit structure. It is for these characteristics of his writing that he is said to “push romanticism to its utmost capacity within the boundary of necessary restrictions.” Although the romanticism meant here denotes of decadentism with its focus on the discovery of beauty in the things that die away, we must admit that the tension and control which Hwang Sun-won never relaxes throughout his writing and overcomes whatever decadent laxity there may be in his writing. It is for this special quality as well as his well-known stylistic terseness that he is now rated as one of the most important existing writers of the short story.
These works of Yi Pom-son may be divided into two groups. One of them depicts how the traditional rural society disintegrates through destructive effects of a war, as in “The People of Crane Village,” while the other group deals with the painful reality of the petty bourgeois living in the midst of a war and the national division, as in “A Stray Bullet.” Especially his stories of the second category are powerful in their dark depiction of the despairing condition of life that makes it impossible for anyone living under that condition to live a rich and truly human life.
LKL adds: the collection contains the following short stories by Hwang Sun-won and Yi Pom-son
Hwang Sun-won: Acorns tr Norman Thorpe
Hwang Sun-won: For Dear Life tr Song Yo-in
Hwang Sun-won: Life tr Kim Se-yong
Hwang Sun-won: Masks tr Edward W Poitras
Hwang Sun-won: The Children tr Edward W Poitras
Hwang Sun-won: The Drizzle tr Kim Chong-un
Hwang Sun-won: The Moon and the Crab’s Legs tr Edward W Poitras
Hwang Sun-won: The Stars tr Choe Chol-li
Hwang Sun-won: The Weighted Tumbler tr Kim Chong-chol
Hwang Sun-won: Time for You and Me Alone tr Kim Chong-un
Yi Pom-son: A Stray Bullet tr Vreni Merriam
Yi Pom-son: Autumn Leaves tr Edward D Rockstein
Yi Pom-son: God of the Earth tr Sister Janice Vere Hilburn
Yi Pom-son: The Cosmos tr Norman Thorpe
Yi Pom-son: The People of Crane Village tr Pak Kyu-so
The only available compilation we're aware of that includes a translation of Aimless Bullet (오발탄) - the text adapted in Yu Hyun-mok's famous movie of the same name
Entry on Goodreads.com here.
* Where the book is available from a number of sources, they are prioritised as follows: (1) Amazon UK site, or Bookshop.org for the more recent uploads (2) Amazon US site (3) Other sites in US or Europe, including second-hand outlets (4) LTI Korea, where the title is advertised as available from there (5) Onlines stores in Korea. Links to Bookshop.org and Amazon UK site contain an affiliate code which, should you make a purchase, gives a small commission to LKL at no additional cost to you.