For a while now its probably true to say that international fiction has largely been coloured by the fact that South Asian fiction and Scandanavian fiction or Nordic noir has mostly dominated the foreign fiction scene.Yet that could all about to change thanks to a previously unknown writer Han Kang and her novel The Vegetarian winning the International Manbooker prize 2016. Hailed by critics, its sure to pique your interest in Korean fiction. So what is the appeal of Korean fiction? According to London based translator of Korean fiction, Deborah Smith
” Western audiences love strong, memorable, active main characters, whereas Korean literature has tended to find an aesthetic value, and a social truthfulness, in quietness, ordinariness, [and] passivity,”
globooks has scouted the literary landscape and uncovered a few more Korean fiction gems
Kyung-sook Shin, Please Look After Mom
The plot of the novel involves an old woman who goes missing after disappearing at a Seoul subway station, and her family goes looking for her. Along the way, though, her relatives have to ask themselves serious questions about how well they really know their mother and what kind of life she had outside of being a caretaker for others. Shin told CNN that she had wanted to write the book for 30 years before she actually attempted it: “It took me so long to write it because my concept of ‘mother’ changed so much over all those years. I had to think long and hard about my own mother in that time and I found that thinking about your own mother is really thinking about yourself.” Shin has also said that the book—which sold 10 million copies in Korea alone—deals with the Korean concept of han, which is sometimes translated in English as “a feeling of sorrow and oppression” or “profound, prolonged sadness.”
Suki Kim The Interpreter
Kim’s recent memoir, Without You, There Is No Us, detailed Kim’s (born in Korea and raised in the United States)But her 2003 novel focuses on the Korean immigrant experience in America through the story of a young woman whose parents are murdered in the bodega they manage. She soon learns that their deaths are not random and is slowly drawn into the community’s dark, mistrustful underbelly. Kim nails the voice of a woman wedged between two cultures, not sure whether she really belongs in either. Many stories about first-generation Americans veer toward the nostalgic or the hardscrabble, but The Interpreter doesn’t take easy paths.
Krys Lee Drifting House.
Okja Keller’s two novels, Comfort Women and Fox Girl, look at the culture of “comfort women” who were forced into sex work during World War II. The women of Fox Girl are regularly degraded and humiliated; one develops a reputation for “doing the things nobody else would do.” Sometimes, reading it feels like getting punched in the stomach. But it’s that uncomfortable feeling that makes it a book worth reading. Considering that it took until the 1990s for either the Korean or Japanese governments to begin to acknowledge what had happened to the comfort women during the war, Keller’s books feel downright revolutionary. Smith adds that Korea’s female-centric literature is a particularly interesting field to watch these days: “Korean society is changing all the time, becoming more globalized. role of women is a particularly interesting one, I think—the way a Western reader might read a Korean book and think they have it lucky, but also get to wondering whether we’re really as free as we might like to think, or at least whether we’re using those freedoms as much as we might.”
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