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Posts Tagged ‘  Korean Fiction’

The story told in ‘Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982‘ by Cho Nam-Joo goes like this.

Kim Jiyoung is thirty-three years old, she has been married for three years, she is a housewife and has a one-year old daughter. One day she starts behaving strangely. Soon she starts assuming the personalities of other people, and it appears that she is not playacting, but she really thinks she is those people. Her husband is worried. The story then takes us into the past to the time Kim Jiyoung was born, we get to know about her parents, about her life as a child, about her time in school and later university, how she grows up into a young woman, her time at work, about the sacrifices she has to make because she is a girl, the same kind of sacrifices her grandmother made, her mother made, and her elder sister made, and how events progress to the present. Are we able to find out what happened and why Kim Jiyoung behaves strangely? You have to read the book to find out.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982‘ is an insightful depiction of contemporary Korean society and family, the challenges, the discrimination and the sexism that Korean women face everyday in a system which is geared against them, the sacrifices they make and how they are taken for granted, and how though it looks like things have changed for the better in recent years, some things never change. If we think about it, it is probably not just about Korean women, but it is really about women everywhere in the world. It is a heartbreaking and haunting book. Through the story, the author Cho Nam-Joo uses actual facts and statistics to critique Korean society and it is very insightful and eye-opening to read. Cho Nam-Joo’s prose is spare and matter-of-fact and it adds to the poignancy of the story.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982‘ is a book to be read and pondered on, on where we are as a society and how far we still have to progress yet.

Have you read ‘Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982‘? What do you think about it?

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I discovered ‘Please Look After Mother‘ by Kyung–Sook Shin recently and I loved the plot summary and decided to read it. This is my first proper Korean novel, so Yay! 😁

The story starts with one day, when mother goes missing. Her grown-up children start searching for her. As this is happening, we see the present and the past unfolding through four different perspectives. We get to know more about mother and her relationship with her children, her husband, and other people who were part of her life. The stories are narrated in different voices – one of them is in the second person, another is in the third person, another is in the first person. This is the first time I am reading an extended narration in the second person. It is intimate, it tries to get the reader involved in the story, almost makes the reader into a character, which is very fascinating. The main character in the story, the mother, is the archetypal, long-suffering universal mother, the woman who works hard and sacrifices everything for her family, the woman who is taken for granted by her family. It is a heartbreaking story.

I liked ‘Please Look After Mother‘ very much, though most of it was heartbreaking. It was almost like reading a novel by a twenty-first century Korean Thomas Hardy. I am happy that I read my first Korean novel. Kyung–Sook Shin seems to be one of the contemporary Korean greats and her book ‘The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness‘ also seems to be acclaimed. I hope to read that sometime.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite passages from the book.

“Do you know what happens to all the things we did together in the past? When I asked my daughter this, although it was you I wanted to ask, my daughter said, ‘It’s so strange to hear you say something like that, Mother,’ and asked, ‘Wouldn’t they have seeped into the present, not disappeared?’ What difficult words! Do you understand what that means? She says that all the things that have happened are actually in the present, that old things are all mixed in with current things, and current things mingle with future things, and future things are combined with old things; it’s just that we can’t feel them. Do you think that things happening now are linked to things from the past and things in the future, it’s just that we can’t feel them?”

Have you read ‘Please Look After Mother‘? What do you think about it?

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