Translated by: Andrew James Keast, Chang Chung-hwa
Publisher: White Pine Press, 2019.
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What Makes a City? provides the reader with an intelligent perspective on the strange culture of our times and a series of adventures through which we explore universal human problems. Family, education, the media, popular culture, technology, alienation, financial power or the lack thereof . . . These are among the most prominent components of the eight stories which comprise this book, in which characters struggle—sometimes in despair, but usually with a sense of humor—to understand or at least accept their place in a world that often makes no sense.
“How strange these stories are, and what surprising merits they hold! Consider, for example, “By Motor-Home to Ulan Bator”. This is such an exciting story that one can not but read the whole piece, without interruption. There’s also “What Is It That Makes a City?”, read and finished so quickly that one feels one has been somehow possessed. And as an after-taste, there remains a sense of something like loneliness and something like alienation. One is aware of the connections between these stories, and yet each is quite independent. The stories may strike one as sarcastic, but they are also very warm and even bright, and composed with meticulous care. While these characters talk about the past, they seem to inhabit a future to which we have not yet been. Combined in the creation of these isolated characters, Park’s unique philosophical ideas, his tragic view of the world and his black humor make a surprise attack on what we believe in as true. Looking at these unique stories, we may call Park’s fiction “futuristic”, but it may also be that his new “nomads” have already been born, and are already making their attempts to settle outside of time.”
— Kyung-sook Shin, the author of Please Look After Mom