Read Your Way Through Seoul

3 weeks ago 48

Han Kang grew up successful Seoul, a metropolis that embraces “thousands of years of turbulence.” She recommends speechmaking that draws from the assorted eras that person made up her hometown.

Credit...Raphaelle Macaron

Sept. 6, 2023, 5:00 a.m. ET

Read Your Way Around the World is simply a bid exploring the globe done books.

Seoul is simply a megacity, with a colonisation of astir 10 cardinal and a sanction pronounced similar “soul.” There were times erstwhile I couldn’t basal its standard and gait of change, but I person managed to find a tranquil country and proceed to unrecorded successful this city.

Although modern astatine archetypal glance, Seoul has a agelong history. People archetypal began to stitchery present 6,000 years ago. Over the centuries, the metropolis was the halfway of dynasties that ruled the region, and it remains the superior of South Korea.

In different words, the metropolis exists nether heavy layers of time. News of operation projects brought to a halt aft digging successful the metropolis halfway unearthed drainage facilities from a 1000 years agone oregon porcelain dating backmost hundreds of years is simply a reminder of that.

As I locomotion past the chromatic markers of aged buildings destroyed during the Japanese occupation, from 1910 to 1945, oregon a brutal ideological war, from 1950 to 1953, I spot the royal palaces and accepted backstage houses that person survived, the flat complexes built since the 1960s that person evolved into high-rises, the commercialized skyscrapers dazzling with nighttime lights. These clashing, overlapping, converging sceneries signifier the city’s precise identity. It’s nary astonishment that galore works of lit oregon creation created present are infused with pathos.

One of the astir captivating books from my childhood, “Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea,” which goes backmost thousands of years, was compiled by the Buddhist monk Ilyon successful the 13th century, during the Goryeo dynasty. It consists of bizarre, supernatural tales — kings calved from eggs, a magic flute that hushes the storms to sleep. “Tales of the Strange by a Korean Confucian Monk: Kumo Sinhwa,” by Kim Sisup, a postulation of 5 stories from the aboriginal Joseon dynasty, which started successful the precocious 14th century, is besides gripping, but successful a gentler way. The antheral protagonists walk a fewer days with the ghosts of graceful, candid women with whom they autumn successful love, and unrecorded the remainder of their lives successful solitude and grief.

“The Story of Hong Gildong,” besides from the Joseon dynasty, was precocious translated into English by Minsoo Kang. Gildong is calved into a noble household but can’t assertion his ain begetter due to the fact that of the lowly presumption of his mother. Suffering organization discrimination, helium becomes a thief, redistributing wealthiness to the poor. The publication has agelong been purported to beryllium the enactment of a progressive thinker, Heo Gyun, who was executed for treason successful the 17th century, but questions astir its authorship person been raised successful academia.

For a much caller depiction of Seoul’s past, Park Wan-suh’s memoir “Who Ate Up All the Shinga?”, translated by Yu Young-nan and Stephen J. Epstein, deals with the 1930s to the 1950s. After starting with sparkling puerility memories successful Kaesong — present successful North Korea — the communicative shifts to Seoul successful the midst of the Korean War. The metropolis empties out, with astir citizens fleeing successful fear, but Park’s household chooses to enactment to attraction for her sick brother. The ending, wherever she looks retired onto the strikingly quiescent streets and resolves to constitute astir each these ordeals 1 day, is compelling.

Poems by the poets who are present surviving successful Seoul. If you randomly unfastened and work collections specified arsenic “I’m OK, I’m Pig!” and “Autobiography of Death,” by Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi; “Request Line astatine Noon,” by Lee Jangwook, translated by Sun Kim and Tsering Wangmo; “Fifteen Seconds Without Sorrow,” by Shim Bo-seon, translated by Chung Eun-Gwi and Brother Anthony of Taizé, “Cheer Up Femme Fatale,” by Kim Yi-deum, translated by Ji Yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi and Johannes Göransson; oregon “Beautiful and Useless,” by Kim Min Jeong, translated by Soeun Seo and Jake Levine, you tin get a corporate consciousness of Seoul.

Likewise, abbreviated communicative collections volition connection a illustration of assorted aspects of beingness here. Flowers of Mold,” by Ha Seong-nan, translated by Janet Hong; Cursed Bunny,” by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur; Love successful the Big City,” by Sang Young Park, besides translated by Hur; and Shoko’s Smile,” by Choi Eunyoung, translated by Sung Ryu, are each disposable successful English. And novels specified arsenic Concerning My Daughter, by Kim Hye-jin, translated by Jamie Chang; “My Brilliant Life,” by Ae-ran Kim, translated by Chi-Young Kim; and “Your Republic Is Calling You,” by Kim Young-ha, besides translated by Chi-Young Kim, bespeak the ambience of Seoul.

One Hundred Shadows,” by Hwang Jungeun, translated by Jung Yewon, is acceptable successful Euljiro, a characteristically engaged and run-down country afloat of lighting fixtures shops. The caller follows a antheral and a pistillate moving connected these streets and getting to cognize each other. They matter-of-factly sermon a unusual supernatural development: The shadows of marginalized radical person started to “rise.” Once radical travel these shadows, they suffer their life. The pair’s delicate efforts to support each different company, each cautiously making definite that the other’s shadiness doesn’t “rise,” permission a lasting impression.

Start with a sojourn to the location of Yi Sang, who was calved successful 1910 and trained arsenic an designer earlier becoming a luminous avant-garde writer and dying astatine the property of 27 from tuberculosis. Make definite to person a transcript of “Yi Sang: Selected Works,” translated by Don Mee Choi, Jack Jung, Sawako Nakayasu and Joyelle McSweeney, connected hand. The publication is composed of exceptional poems, abbreviated stories, essays and illustrations by the writer, accompanied by intimate essays by the translators.

Although the abstraction that displays the artist’s works is humble successful size, it provides a peculiar infinitesimal of interaction for those acquainted with his short, brave and fatigued travel from his childhood, erstwhile helium was adopted by his uncle, to his last moments. From the tiny rooftop, you volition get a presumption of the upland Inwangsan.

From the house, I urge you support going up, pursuing the mildly sloping alley starring to the tract of 1 of the writer Yoon Dong-ju’s boardinghouses. Yoon was arrested during the Japanese occupation, a play of aggravated oppression successful Korea. He died successful situation successful February 1945, the last twelvemonth of assemblage rule, astatine the property of 28. Many successful Korea, including immoderate historians, judge his decease whitethorn person resulted from medical experiments connected humans conducted by the Japanese military.

Five much minutes up the hill, and you volition participate a quiescent vale wherever I sometimes dip my hands successful the clear, acold h2o of a watercourse similar a young Yoon did to lavation his look each morning. The h2o that touches my hands is not the aforesaid that touched his, but helium feels close.

Yoon was my favourite writer erstwhile I was successful mediate school. I particularly similar his abbreviated poem “Eight Blessings.” What was connected his caput erstwhile helium wrote, “Blessed are they who mourn” 8 times over, past ended with “They shall grieve forever” aft leaving 1 blank, soundless line?

Twenty much minutes of walking on the way volition instrumentality you to the Yoon Dong-ju Literature Museum, wherever you tin spot his manuscript and photographs.

Wit N Cynical, successful the Hyehwa-dong neighborhood, is simply a poesy bookstore tally by a young poet, Yoo Heekyung, wherever determination are play readings for recently published collections. Boanbooks, successful Tongui-dong, has a cafe and a modern creation assemblage downstairs. Thanks Books and Achimdal Books, successful the Sinchon area; Goyo Bookshop successful Huam-dong; and Onul Books, which precocious moved locations from the southbound of Seoul to adjacent to Gyeongbokgung Palace, each person unsocial selections of books and an progressive literate lawsuit calendar.

If you’re looking for books successful English, effort Kyobo Book Center successful Gwanghwamun. This immense bookstore offers a enactment of books successful overseas languages.

As for libraries, Namsan Public Library is simply a beauty. If you instrumentality a spot by the ample model successful the creation books conception connected the 4th floor, Namsan forest, oregon “blue eyebrows” arsenic the 18th-century writer and calligrapher Lee Deok-mu called it, volition travel into view. Beyond the lushness, you tin spot the distant slopes with engaged roads and sinuous, intersecting paths dispersed retired implicit the hills. When the time ends and the lights commencement to flick connected successful the dark, I anticipation you tin consciousness the psyche of Seoul: the metropolis that embraces thousands of years of turbulence.

“Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea,” Ilyon, translated by Ha Tae-Hung and Grafton K. Mintz

“Tales of the Strange by a Korean Confucian Monk: Kumo Sinhwa,” Kim Sisup, translated by Dennis Wuerthner

“The Story of Hong Gildong,” authorship unconfirmed, translated by Minsoo Kang

“Who Ate Up All the Shinga?”, Park Wan-suh, translated by Yu Young-nan and Stephen J. Epstein

“I’m OK, I’m Pig!” and “Autobiography of Death,” Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi

“Request Line astatine Noon,” Lee Jangwook, translated by Sun Kim and Tsering Wangmo

“Fifteen Seconds Without Sorrow,” Shim Bo-seon, translated by Chung Eun-Gwi and Brother Anthony of Taizé

“Cheer Up Femme Fatale,” Kim Yi-deum, translated by Ji Yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi and Johannes Göransson

“Beautiful and Useless,” Kim Min Jeong, translated by Soeun Seo and Jake Levin

“Flowers of Mold,” Ha Seong-nan, translated by Janet Hong

“Cursed Bunny,” Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur

“Love successful the Big City,” Sang Young Park, translated by Anton Hur

“Shoko’s Smile,” Choi Eun-young, translated by Sung Ryu

“Concerning My Daughter,” Kim Hye-jin, translated by Jamie Chang

“My Brilliant Life,” Ae-ran Kim, translated by Chi-Young Kim

“Your Republic Is Calling You,” Kim Young-ha, translated by Chi-Young Kim

“One Hundred Shadows,” Hwang Jungeun, translated by Jung Yewon

“Yi Sang: Selected Works,” translated by Don Mee Choi, Jack Jung, Sawako Nakayasu and Joyelle McSweeney

Han Kang has written poems, abbreviated stories, novellas and novels. Her enactment has been wide lauded and recognized with awards that see the 2016 International Booker Prize, for “The Vegetarian.” Her astir caller publication is “Greek Lessons.

Read Entire Article