For a long time now the Korean Literature in Translation blog edited by Charles Montgomery has been reviewing new and not so new Korean literature in translation publications. There are already over 100 reviews on the blog, for a full list see the reviews section of the website.
Also Tony Malone over at Tony’s Reading List has reviewed a large number of Korean titles (especially throughout 2014) including reviews of the Dalkey Archive series of Korean literature in translation, the wonderful anthology Wayferer – New Fiction by Korean Women, edited and translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton, and Jenny Wang Medina’s translation of The Bird by Oh Jung-hee, arguably one of Korea’s most distinguished writers.
Going back to the Dalkey Archive Korean literature series, there was a great article in The New Yorker in October 2015 by Ed Park entitled ‘Sorry Not Sorry.’ Taking the series as a whole and focusing on up and coming writer Lee Ki-ho’s At Least We Can Apologize translated by Christopher J. Dykas, the article sheds light onto the dry, dark comedy which can be found in much Korean literature if you know where to look.
One writer who is really making waves in the news and reviews department at the moment is Han Kang. With the publication of The Vegetarian in 2015 and Human Acts in early 2016, the UK the press and many readers have been captivated by the measured yet overwhelming power of her work. For a general introduction to Han Kang check out these articles from Koreana magazine and Korea.net. If you needed any more convincing to give these two books a read, here is a selection of the reviews that have appeared in the media over the last year or so.
Reviews of The Vegetarian – translated by Deborah Smith
Daniel Hahn in The Guardian : “…a bracing, visceral, system-shocking addition to the Anglophone reader’s diet. It is sensual, provocative and violent, ripe with potent images, startling colours and disturbing questions.”
Julia Pascal in the Independent : “This short novel is one of the most startling I have read.”
“The tension in Han Kang’s multi-layered novel is the way in which the author reveals how nature, sex and art crash through this polite society. Violence erupts without warning. It is described almost casually.”
Joanna Walsh in the New Statesman : “Elegantly translated into bone-spare English by Deborah Smith, The Vegetarian is a book about the failures of language and the mysteries of the physical. Yet its message should not undermine Han’s achievement as a writer. Like its anti-protagonist, The Vegetarian whispers so clearly, it can be heard across the room, insistently and with devastating, quiet violence.”
Gabe Habash in Publishers Weekly: “There is much to admire in Han’s novel. Its three-part structure is brilliant, gradually digging deeper and deeper into darker and darker places; the writing is spare and haunting; but perhaps most memorable is its crushing climax, a phantasmagoric yet emotionally true moment that’s surely one of the year’s most powerful. This is an ingenious, upsetting, and unforgettable novel.”
Reviews of Human Acts – translated by Deborah Smith
Jonathan McAloon in The Telegraph : “Despite death being a fact of every life, for a writer to imagine how this may feel has become stigmatised in realist fiction, associated instead with fantasy or the ghost story. For this reason, the soul sequence in Human Acts threatens to be problematic, but in fact becomes a technical and emotional triumph. Kang’s other world is as solid as it gets.”
Francesca Wade in The Financial Times: “Human Acts portrays people whose self-determination is under threat from terrifying external forces; it is a sobering meditation on what it means to be human.”
Arifa Akbar in the Independent : “The Vegetarian showed Han’s preoccupation with the human body and in Human Acts she captures the paradox of being human: the meat-like, animal reduction of our humanity – the dead bodies of the beginning chapter – alongside our ability to love and suffer for our principles, and die for them, that make us truly human.”
Lucy Scholes in The National : “By its very existence Human Acts is an important and necessary book, but without Han’s astonishing penmanship I doubt it would have been so devastating and vital a work of literature.”
If you’d like to turn the spotlight on another author or want to suggest any blogs, news articles or reviews that have been left out just drop us a comment below.