Brief review: Samuel Hawley — The Imjin War

Samuel Hawley: The Imjin War – Japan’s Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China 2nd Edition, Conquistador Press 2014 Originally published by Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch, Seoul, 2005 How is it that a 664 page book only merits a brief review? Well, because as an historical book a proper review should only […]

Book review: Kim Young-ha – Diary of a Murderer

Kim Young-ha: Diary of a Murderer and other stories Translated by Krys Lee Mariner Books, 2019, 200pp Originally published as 살인자의 기억법, Munhakdongne, 2013 Somewhat rashly, I approach Kim Young-ha’s novels with a keen sense of anticipation, particularly when translated by Krys Lee. Rashly, because with high expectations you usually set yourself up for a […]

Book review: Hwang Sok-yong – At Dusk

Hwang Sok-yong: At Dusk Translated by Sora Kim-Russell Scribe, 2018, 188pp Originally published as 해질 무렵, Munhakdongne, 2015 What a relief it is when a novel is both thought-provoking and a pleasure to read. Hwang Sok-yong’s At Dusk made me look forward to my daily commute (pretty much the only time I get to read). […]

Book notes: Hwang Jung-eun — I’ll Go On

Hwang Jungeun: I’ll Go On Translated by Emily Yae Won Tilted Axis Press, 2018 Serialised as 소라나나나기, 2012-2013, and published as 계속해보겠습니다, 2014, by Changbi After not really warming to Hwang Jungeun’s One Hundred Shadows, I nevertheless invested in the second translation of her work by Tilted Axis Press firstly because the press deserves our […]

Book Review: Pyun Hye-young — The Hole

Pyun Hye-young: The Hole Translated by Sora Kim-Russell Arcade Publishing, 2017, 208pp Originally published as 홀 by 문학과지성사, 2016 In the collection of short stories entitled Evening Proposal, Pyun Hye-young introduces us to a series of different very ordinary people trapped in humdrum lives, examining what happens when they are placed in unusual situations. Pyun […]

Book review: Min Kym — Gone

Min Jin Kym: Gone — A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung Viking, 2017, 256pp When Min Jin Kym’s Gone came out, I mentally heaved a sigh of relief. Here’s one Korea-related book, I thought, among the dozens that will be published this year, that I don’t need to read. The story of how her […]

A look back at the 2018 literary year

A look back at the books and literary events of the year – and a summary of my reading diary. Literature in translation In translated fiction, my reading this year has not managed anywhere near to keep pace with the amount of translations being published. I know I said the same in respect of 2017 […]

Book review: Blaine Harden – King of Spies

Blaine Harden: King of Spies – The dark reign of America’s spymaster in Korea Mantle, 2018, 272 pp The character of the maverick cop, or even maverick spy, delivering outstanding results through unorthodox means and despite a disregard for hierarchy, is a familiar one in crime and spy fiction. Blaine Harden, who worked with Shin […]

Exhibition visit: Nick Bonner’s Made in North Korea

When one thinks of North Korean graphic art, images of strident anti-American propaganda posters spring to mind. Fortunately, and in the current climate of reduced tension on the peninsula, the posters that greeted you in the first room of Nick Bonner’s exhibition at the House of Illustration focused less on stirring up national hatred against […]

Book review: Pyun Hye-young – Evening Proposal

Pyun Hye-young: Evening Proposal Translated by Youngsuk Park and Gloria Cosgrove Smith Originally published as 저녁의 구애, Moonji Publishing, 2011 After the somewhat gory content of Pyun’s story Corpses – published in the Waxen Wings anthology – in which a woman’s body parts keep appearing, it was with some nervousness that I started reading Pyun’s An […]

Brief review: Jeong You-jeong – The Good Son

Jeong You-jeong: The Good Son Translated by Kim Chi-young Little, Brown Book Group, 2018, 322pp Originally published as 종의 기원, Eunhaengnamu, 2016 A Good Son is one of the books being hailed as the new Scandi Noir, while Amazon is billing it as “The bestselling Korean thriller of the year” – though in a Korean genre that […]

Book review: Shin Kyung-sook – The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness

Shin Kyung-sook: The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness Translated by Jung Ha-yun Pegasus Book, New York, 2015, 369pp Originally published as 외딴방, Munhakdongne, 1995 When reading Ahn Jung-hyo’s White Badge, I found myself wondering why, despite what I thought was my general antipathy to novels with listless central characters who can’t seem to find their way […]

Book review: Lee Yil – Dynamics of Expansion and Reduction

Lee Yil: Dynamics of Expansion and Reduction Selected Writings on Korean Contemporary Art, 1970 – 1996 Initial draft translations: Chung Yeon-shim, Park Eun-ah, Park Sung-ji Final translations: Paul O’Kane, Song Bada Published by AICA (International Association of Art Critics) / Les Presses du Réel, Dijon, France, 2018, 212pp How often do you read the learned […]

Book Review: Ahn Jung-hyo – White Badge

Ahn Jung-hyo: White Badge Soho Press, NY, 1989, 337pp Originally published as 하얀전쟁, 1983 Translated by the author If I saw Jeong Ji-young’s White Badge (1992) when it screened in London eight years ago, I do not remember it. I cannot imagine having a similar lapse of memory concerning Ahn Jung-hyo’s Vietnam war novel on […]

Book review: Yi Kwang-su — The Soil

Yi Kwang-su: The Soil Translated by Hwang Sun-ae and Horace Jeffery Hodges Dalkey Archive, 2013, 512pp Originally published as 흙, 1932-3 Yi Kwang-su’s The Soil, at over 500 pages long, is not a book that immediately entices you to read it. But with a screening of Kim Ki-young’s adaptation of the novel coming up shortly […]

The Kim Aeran essay contest: so far, so good

I struggled with previous KLTI Essay Contests. With There a Petal Silently Falls, having read it three times, I still couldn’t find an angle into it, and although I wrote an essay it was a pretty uninspired offering. With Who Ate Up all the Shinga, I probably enjoyed the book more, but again couldn’t really connect […]