"Hwang Sok-yong has a knack of presenting us with stories that look like the simple jottings of an idle, curious man... yet each phrase almost is invested with the power of a parable." Mika Provata-Carlone
Extracts
Wedding plans

Wedding plans

Mrs Binat’s ambitions for her daughters were fairly typical: groom them into marriageable material and wed them off to no less than princes and presidents. Before their fall, her husband had always assured her that, no matter what a mess Alys or any of the girls became, they would fare well because they were Binat...
Fantasia in F minor

Fantasia in F minor

Breathless, they sank into the armchairs in the Great Room. While Lenny, shaken by a new coughing fit, gasped for air, Hermin began a feverish search for a subject, any subject, capable of guaranteeing a normal conversation. The silence must not be allowed to drag on and on again; topics of an oversensitive nature must...
Sons of the jungle

Sons of the jungle

Flanking the procession of those who only recently crossed the great border, tramping beneath the thin, constant drizzle of rain that has begun to muddy the paths through the jungle, the two boys who were born here and who live nearby move at a brisk pace, without approaching or speaking to each other: travelling with...
The soothsayer

The soothsayer

A courtyard, a fountain, a pond with small grey fish. Around it walls, columns, a cloister. At its centre a staircase leads all the way up to the four stoutest columns bearing a roof inscribed with golden lettering. Flame, undo that which is ephemeral. Liberated is the eternal. I climb the steps, pause in front...
Loving Milena

Loving Milena

At the beginning of April, Little River came over with Milena; he twisted at the waist, pulled his head into his shoulders, smiled as condescendingly as ever, and said: ‘This is my good friend Milena… And this is Lidia, and Danilo. I was telling you about them. Now come meet Granny…’ Until then, Čeda of...
An alternate story

An alternate story

It turns out Chiara is a member of a group of Hollywood types who gather every few years or so in the Catskills. In a woodsy agricultural setting, Chiara’s group plays parlor games and captures ghosts in séances and commands lunar apogees and exhibits all sorts of megalomaniac tendencies, in small and unreported doses, usually...
Darker than a deep silence

Darker than a deep silence

It was the dead of night – more precisely two o’clock on the morning of Monday 29th September 1893 – when Augusto De Boer and his daughter set off. Such was Jole’s emotion, she could feel her heart bursting. Her hands were cold and sweaty and moved in an awkward way. She had got out...
The eye of the Tigris

The eye of the Tigris

The present is an arrogant time in which to live, always has been. Humans of the present look back at their people, land, and history, and whisper to themselves with glee, We are not them. But we were always them. We are our history; we are the crimes of our ancestors. And we wait, mouths...
In too deep

In too deep

Having laid my son-in-law out for the count, I continue on my way. From the outside, anyone might think I’ve lost all feeling. Once upon a time, I knew myself well. I mean that my behaviour rarely surprised me. When you’ve experienced most situations, you also learn the correct responses to them. You even notice...
Once in Paris

Once in Paris

The call comes when he least expects it. He’s tidying away what’s left of lunch – some cold meat wrappers, a crust of baguette – when the phone rings, in that short-tempered peremptory way machines have. He almost doesn’t answer it; he’s been fending off unwanted offers of insurance, unlimited broadband, crates of discount wine...