Novels in English

Mary Lynn Bracht: White Chrysanthemum Penguin Random House 2018, 320pp White Chrysanthemum, the debut novel from Mary Lynn Bracht, tells the story of two sisters, brought up on Jeju Island, who were tragically separated in the last years of the Second World War. The elder sister, Hana, is abducted into sexual slavery by a Japanese […]

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New books for the summer

by Philip Gowman 16 July 2018
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A couple of new books to take with you on your summer break – or, more likely in respect of the first on the list, to adorn your coffee table when you return. First, fulsomely reviewed by Andrew Salmon in Asia Times, comes Inside North Korea by The Guardian‘s architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright […]

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New and upcoming literature and fiction titles for 2018

by Philip Gowman 22 January 2018
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From classic Joseon dynasty ghost stories, via historical fiction set in the reign of Queen Min, to the latest in translated literature, we take a look at some of the books to look forward to in 2018. Our look at non-fiction titles can be found here. Contemporary Korean literature in translation Hwang Sok-yong’s novel At […]

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Pachinko featured in New York Times

by Philip Gowman 12 November 2017
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There’s a nice feature on Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko in last weekend’s New York Times. I enjoyed the book myself though never got around to writing a review. It’s a very different work from her first novel, Free Food for Millionaires, which I described as a combination of Sex and the City and Wall Street, and […]

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New and upcoming literature and fiction titles [updated]

by Philip Gowman 16 January 2017
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As I’ve been looking back at the books of 2016 I realise that there are a few recent publications I missed. Here are some of them, along with some that are advertised to be out this year. I do wish there was a decent source to tell you what’s new or coming up soon. Publishers’ […]

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A look back at some of the books of 2016

by Philip Gowman 30 December 2016
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To cut to the chase, here are my two books of the year for 2016. For more detail, read on. Literature in translation The world of translated fiction seems to have been dominated by two names this year, one Korean and one British. The Korean name of course is Han Kang. Just as The Vegetarian […]

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Inspector O in NYT feature

by Philip Gowman 29 August 2016
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There’s a nice feature on James Church and his Inspector O series in the NYT. Well worth a read, as are the books themselves. Here’s a good quote from the article: “If you want to understand North Korea then you need to read Inspector O,” said Michael Madden, who has spent years studying the North […]

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Krys Lee featured in the Guardian

by Philip Gowman 13 August 2016
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There’s a really good interview with Krys Lee (Drifting House, How I Became a North Korean) in The Guardian: “The acclaimed short story writer talks about her debut novel, trying to understand her violent father and moving back from the US to South Korea”. The novel is available on Amazon from 18 August. Krys Lee […]

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A look back at the books of 2015

by Philip Gowman 16 January 2016
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In place of our annual “LKL Awards” post, we look at some of the highlights of 2015 in the area of books, film and music. Apart from the field of literature in translation (and of course I’m talking Han Kang here), there are no clear winners or I haven’t covered enough ground to choose one. […]

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Book review: Giacomo Lee — Funereal

by Philip Gowman 25 September 2015
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Giacomo Lee: Funereal Signal 8 Press, 2015, 230pp Giacomo Lee’s debut Funereal is fast-moving novel set very much in contemporary Seoul, and referencing so many contemporary issues in South Korea’s high-pressure society. Soobin, a marketing graduate whose genuine smile endears her to her customers in the doughnut takeaway store which is the only place she […]

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Free short story by Heinz Insu Fenkl

by Philip Gowman 22 September 2015
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Five Arrows, a short story by writer and translator Heinz Insu Fenkl is available in the August issue of New Yorker magazine. If you’re lazy there’s an audio version on Soundcloud available here. And at the bottom of the New Yorker webpage you’ll find a link to his translation of the Yi Mun-yol story which […]

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Brief book review: Mark James Russell — Young-hee and the Pullocho

by Philip Gowman 17 July 2015
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Mark James Russell: Young-hee and the Pullocho Tuttle Publishing, 2015, 258pp So annoying. I get sent a review copy of a work of fiction. I warn them that I probably won’t have time to read it properly, but promise to do my best to have a quick flick through it and to write a polite notice […]

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Book Review: The Defections, by Hannah Michell. Put it on your wishlist

by Philip Gowman 23 December 2013
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Hannah Michell: The Defections Quercus, 2014, 336pp THE BRITISH EMBASSY, SEOUL STAFF RECORD NAME: Kim, Mia D.O.B: 27/10/1979 POSITION: Translator REPORTS TO: Dalton-Ellis, Thomas NATIONALITY: Korean ETHNICITY: Mixed – Korean/British BACKGROUND NOTES: Born, was educated and lives in Seoul. Family – father, disabled – stepmother, seamstress – mother, English, unknown – uncle, runs school for […]

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Book review: Martin Limón — The Joy Brigade

by Philip Gowman 30 July 2013
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Martin Limón: The Joy Brigade Soho Press, 2012. 304pp Martin Limón’s eighth novel in the Ernie Bascom and George Sueño series covers new ground in many respects. It is the first novel in which we see Sueno on his own, not accompanied by his buddy Bascom. And it is the first time that Limon has […]

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Krys Lee interviewed for Asia House

by Philip Gowman 17 April 2013
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There’s a nice interview with Krys Lee, author of Drifting House, on the Asia House website. Drifting House was LKL’s book of the year last year, and so we’re looking forward to seeing Ms Lee at the Asia House Festival of Asian Literature next month. Keywords: Authors: Krys Lee

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Orphan Master wins Pulitzer

by Philip Gowman 16 April 2013
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At LKL we were lukewarm, but we don’t mind being in the minority. So congratulations to Adam Johnson for winning the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, “for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life,” with The Orphan Master’s Son. Source: www.pulitzer.org Keywords: Authors: Adam Johnson

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Book review: Yoko Kawashima Watkins — So Far from the Bamboo Grove

by Philip Gowman 30 November 2012
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Yoko Kawashima Watkins: So Far from the Bamboo Grove Harper Collins, 1986 Reprinted with letter from the author, 2008 183pp This time last year, Wikileaks revealed that when Mitt Romney, then Governor of Massachussetts, visited Korea in December 2006, one of the topics raised by the Korean Acting Foreign Minister Cho Jung-pyo was this short […]

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