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Translated by Theodore Hughes with two stories translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton. Here for the first time in English is a selection of short stories representing over forty years of the creative output of one of South Korea’s most prominent contemporary writers. Born in what is now North Korea, Lee Ho-Chul makes use of an astonishing variety of literary styles to offer a panoramic view of the devastating impact authoritarian rule, draconian anticommunism, and particularly national division have had on the everyday lives of Koreans in the latter half of the twentieth century. A staunch defender of democracy, Lee was imprisoned by the authoritarian Park Chung Hee regime in 1974.
In his award-winning "Wasting Away," Lee offers a stark, dramatic portrait of the overwhelming sense of despair and frustration felt by one family in the tense aftermath of Park’s military takeover. "The Deputy Mayor Does Not Go to Take Up His Appointment" turns to the absurd to explode the psychology of fear pervading Korean society under Park’s rule: The protagonist runs madly away from the very soldiers who have come to make him deputy mayor of Masan.
From the searing realization of refugees in "Away from Home" that they will never see their village in the North again to the chilling story of two brothers forced to dig their own graves after being mistakenly identified as North Koreans by South Korean soldiers in "Birthday Party," Lee unflinchingly probes the depths of the Cold War ideological polarization that has yet to release its grip on those who make the Korean peninsula their home.
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Lee Ho-Chul was born in Weonsan, in what is now North Korea, in 1932. He served in the North Korean Army in the Korean War until taken prisoner. He made his way South by boat in 1950 and worked in the mid-1950s as a guard at a U.S. Army base. He debuted on the literary scene in 1955 with his short story "Away From Home," embarking on a remarkable literary career that has now moved into its fifth decade. Lee is a member of the Republic of Korea National Academy of the Arts and the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Modern Literature Award for "Panmunjom" and the Dongin Prize for "Wasting Away." Lee Ho-Chul has lived in the South, forcibly separated from his family in the North, for over fifty years.
Lee’s fiction movingly portrays the social and political conditions he has lived through and has made him one of Korea's leading literary figures today.
Theodore Hughes holds a Ph.D. in Korean Literature from UCLA. He is currently assistant professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and the Program in Comparative and World Literature at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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