Translated by: Chang Wang-rok
Publisher: Larchwood, 1980.
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Hwang Sun-won (1915-2000) is one of modern Korea’s masters of narrative prose. Trees on a Slope (1960) is his most accomplished novel: one of the few Korean novels to describe in detail the physical and psychological horrors of the Korean War. It is an assured, forceful depiction of three young soldiers in the South Korean army during the latter stages of the war: Hyon-t’ae, the arrogant and overconfident squad leader; the stolid and dependable Yun-gu; and “the Poet” Tong-ho. The war affects the men in different ways. Before he can return home, Tong-ho takes his own life after shooting an officer and a prostitute. Hyon-t’ae, finding himself removed from situations of mortal danger, spends most of his time drinking; in the end he is arrested for abetting in the suicide of a young girl. Only Yun-gu is able to make the successful transition to postwar life. His ability to survive the encroachments of others, exploit limited resources, and capitalize on the lessons of harsh experience make him emblematic of Korea over the centuries.
Trees on a Slope will introduce an English-reading audience to an important voice in modern Asian literature.
Also includes the stories
- The Shower
- The night he came late
Engrossing story that examines the psychological impact of the Korean war on three protagonists. Note that the links to the LKL and Tony's Reading List reviews below refer to the later translation, by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton.
LKL rating:Read our review of this book here. Read a review by Charles Montgomery here. Read a review by Tony Malone here. Entry on Goodreads.com here.