During the BCLT summer school, Deborah Smith (winner of the Man Booker International, publisher at Tilted Axis Press and all-round good egg) was tutoring the Korean group, and also launching her second book, One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun. Translated by Jung Yewon, this is described variously as a modern fairytale and a non-sentimental love story with a faintly sinister fantasy edge. There is something elusive about the writing, which is in keeping with the slippery nature of the story.
It relates the touching relationship between Eungyo and Mujae, who work at different electronics repair shops in a market in a Seoul slum (a word they muse on, “I wonder if they call this kind of place a slum, because if you called it someone’s home or their livelihood that would make things awkward when it comes to tearing it down. Slum. Slum.”). It’s a trick employed a couple of times – repeating a word till it loses it’s sense – and it made me wonder how those words sounded in Korean, and if the sounds of the English words were at all similar, or how the effect differs.
There is also something strange going on, with people’s shadows starting to “rise”, to take on a life of their own, in a rather sinister way. This is never fully explored or spelled out, and the story is all the more unsettling for that.
I’m not sure that this is the sort of thing I’d have read if it hadn’t been for the circumstances of the book launch, the Prosecco and the chance to get a copy signed by the author, but that’s one of the serendipitous joys of the thing.
The book is published in October – check it out!