"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
Procedures

Procedures

Maria E never knew anyone to quit smoking without claiming that they’d been on three packs a day until just the day before. Nor did she know anyone to have their appendix removed without saying the surgeon claimed that if they’d arrived three minutes later, it would have burst and caused fatal peritonitis. Similarly, she...
Horses

Horses

Helli is sitting in the middle of the forest path watching me approach. Aladdin is a few metres further on, drenched in sweat, his flanks quivering. My horse slows of her own accord, allowing me to focus and regain control over myself, the reins, the situation. As soon as Scheherazade has dropped back to a...
How it begins

How it begins

Donna likes to remind Polly that she has to earn her keep, by entertaining Donna. “You’re such a drag,” Donna says. “Go do something daring so I can live vicariously.” Polly prefers to stay home and drink home-brew wine and watch TV with Donna’s two massive cats, Chicken and Noodles. “What happened today?” Donna yells...
Wrong side of the tree line

Wrong side of the tree line

Central Queensland, Australia, 1885. They stalked the ruined scrubland, searching for something to kill. Two boys, not quite men, tiny in a landscape withered by drought and drenched in unbroken sun. Vast plains pocked with spinifex and clumps of buckbush, grass brittle as old bone, red soil fine as gunpowder underfoot. There’d not been rain...
The starving father-man

The starving father-man

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which sits so large and many-stepped on Fifth Avenue in New York, there is a section on the first floor referred to as the sculpture garden, and I must have walked past this particular sculpture1 many times with my husband, and with the children as they got older, me...
Moisture

Moisture

“In girls, just like in other fauna, moisture attracts all sorts of nasties.” Olga Luz was pacing from one end of the classroom to the other, her gaze fixed on an invisible point somewhere above our heads. She walked in a straight line, always the same path. As if she was afraid of getting lost,...
The truth about love

The truth about love

The Carmelite School for Girls, like every other school in Syria, was plastered with posters of Hero-President Hafez al-Assad, whose mustachioed face was used to ornament school notebooks, various textbooks, and the almost worthless lira coins. In the beginning, and to Patricia’s silent horror, Dunya became a child victim of brainwashing by the state, swallowing...
A family feud

A family feud

It was Monday, July the tenth in the year 1499. A restless moment in a restless world. Rodrigo Borgia reigned as Pope Alexander the Sixth, a pontiff as fond of corruption and debauchery as he was of pomp and ritual. In Florence a brief republic was struggling to emerge from the ruins left by the...
Tremors

Tremors

Around 7:30 am When she returns from a long run she finds her neighbours standing almost naked in the compound. Men in morose Y-front underwear, women crouched behind parked cars or hidden inside rings formed by other women who are not bare. Through the gaps in the cordons she sees flashes of naked thighs, waists,...
Teenage heaven

Teenage heaven

In 2003, the big haze lingered. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome had broken out in Guangdong the year before and coughed and hacked its way around the region. People had died from it. Everyone was afraid of getting infected. Some wore stupid-looking hospital masks but Szu and I would rather have been caught dead than join...