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Posts Tagged ‘Kyung-Sook Shin’

img_20190131_123421.jpg… Cousin stops under the overpass to the No. 3 Industrial Complex and gazes through the window of a hat shop, still open at this hour. As if she has just remembered something, Cousin grabs my hand and pulls me into the store. She tries on several different berets, the kind with a tiny felt stem in the center, before settling on a white one … The white beret goes nicely with the round collar of our spring/summer uniform. When I tell her it looks pretty, Cousin puts the hat on my head … “Let’s both get one.”

From The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness by South Korean author Kyung-Sook Shin.

 

The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness is a somewhat autobiographical story of two teenage cousins working for a stereo factory in 1970s Seoul, South Korea. After hours the girls attend school, hoping an education will lead them out of sweatshop work.

While I was in Seoul last October, I of course took note of street fashion and I found two things when it came to hats: 1. Hats were a a big hit with middle-aged and older women. 2. Not the case with young women, except for berets.

I came across a few hat shops in upscale shopping neighborhoods offering all kinds of hats including berets in an array of colors. Out on the streets I spotted stylishly dressed 20-something women topping off their ensembles with berets, just like the teenage girls in this novel way back in 1979.

The fashion pendulum swings back and forth and back and forth …

 

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img_20181025_152347762.jpgShe wore the same clothes every summer for four years. But the next summer, she took them out to discover that they were threadbare and unwearable. The sleeves were frayed. She took them to a seamstress and asked her to make her a new set in the exact same style from the exact same fabric. The tailor examined the frayed clothes and said she could make the same style but the fabric was no longer available. So my sister left. I told her the tailor could make her something better, but she said there was no point if it wasn’t the same fabric … That’s what she was like. 

Miru, fictional character in the novel I’ll be Right There by Kyung-Shook Shin. Translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell (Other Press, New York)

I’ll be Right There takes place in Seoul, South Korea in an unidentified era but the author says she was thinking 1980s, a time when university students were protesting in the streets for democracy.  She chose not to be specific so young readers could place themselves in the narrative.

The story centers on four students, who are friends and are lost in their youth, affected by the tumultuous times. A bit opaque and most certainly depressed, the characters are nevertheless compelling. They remind me of (British author) Anita Brookner characters, people who slowly plod through life and seem content to go nowhere.  Much of the action in the story comes as the characters walk the city, which gives the reader a nice feel for Seoul.

Kyung-Shook Shin is an award winning author in South Korea, having published seven  novels and eight short story collections. She is among the few Korean writers translated  and published outside South Korea as well as the first woman and first Korean to be awarded the Man Asian Literary Prize for best Asian novel either written in English or translated.

 

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