Anna Kim’s The Great Homecoming, published by Granta Books just before Lockdown is a sweeping tale of friendship and betrayal that explores the devastating impact of the Korean War, Russian and American politicking and the Cold War on individuals, families and cities in Korea and Japan during the 1950s and ’60s.
Anna Kim was born in Daejeon, South Korea but grew up in Austria and wrote the novel in German. She has garnered much praise and recognition for her previous work, and is the recipient of, among other accolades, the Austrian State Fellowship for Literature and the 2012 European Union Prize for Literature, for her second novel Frozen Time. This slick and accomplished translation by Jamie Lee Searle is sure to widen Kim’s fanbase and acclaim, and rightly so.
The novel begins in the present day. A young translator, Hanna, who was born in South Korea but then adopted by a German couple, visits an elderly Korean man, Yunho Kang, who lives in the American missionary quarter in Seoul. When Hanna translates a letter that Yunho has received from America informing him of the death of a Mrs Eve Lewis, he embarks on reminiscing about Eve Moon, or Yunmee – for she is a woman of many names and identities – and his friend Johnny, in Seoul in 1959. Continue reading Guest Review | Rachel Goldblatt | The Great Homecoming, Anna Kim | Granta Books
Henrietta Foster is an established journalist, TV producer and film-maker. Her latest film Beyond the Grace Note (Sky Arts) looks at some of the most remarkable and resilient female conductors, and the joys and challenges of the profession in the male-dominated world of orchestral conducting. Her previous work includes Art & Islam with Hari Kunzru for the BBC (2004), and Millennium Minds with philosopher, Alain de Botton, for Channel 4 (1999).
In January of this year when the world was quite normal with open functioning cinemas there was one film I really wanted to see: Le Mystère Henri Pick. I’d liked the other films based on David Foenkinos’ novels and even better this one starred the marvellous Fabrice Luchini. Sadly I missed both screenings at the Ciné Lumière in London because in those far off days there was more than one thing to do in the evenings. I went to the Institut Français library and checked the novel out but just before lockdown someone else requested the book and I had to return it unread. Henri and Henrietta seemed fated not to meet.
Then to my great joy I saw that Pushkin Press was publishing a translation of the novel and in conjunction with Walter Presents no less. Walter Iuzzolino and his collection of continental European television dramas are the only real reasons to watch Channel Four now that Homeland is over. Putting aside my guilt about not reading the novel in French, I asked Pushkin Press for a copy to review.
Continue reading Guest Review | Henrietta Foster | The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos
T. J. Gorton’s debut novel Only the Dead: A Levantine Tragedy (Quartet Books) has been shortlisted for the Author’s Club First Novel Award. The winner will be announced tomorrow, Sunday 17th May, at the Authors’ Club LitFest Online 2020.
The narrative moves back and forth between civil war in Beirut and the Levant of 1915-18, as Vartan Nakashian, an Armenian from Aleppo, looks back over his tumultuous life, involving espionage, betrayal and revenge at a time of war and genocide. Here is an extract to give you a taste of the author’s style and voice. You can buy a copy of the novel HERE
“Dust motes danced in the sunbeams. Leaning back, he watched their senseless, ceaseless movement and for some reason thought again of old Bustros, the patriarch of a great Greek Orthodox tribe. He would be amazed to see his house today, nearly two hundred years after he built it; surrounded by roads and overlooked by an office block, its gar- dens bulldozed for another road that never happened, was never intended to happen. Turned into a no-man’s land where the militias dump bodies, sometimes burning them. Another reason to keep the windows shut, the oily smoke reeking of gasoline and barbecue. As though anyone cared to identify yesterday’s victims. It’s tomorrow’s they’re worried about. Continue reading Extract | Only the Dead: A Levantine Tragedy, T. J. Gorton
Loosely based on the author’s memories of Brixton in the 1950s and 1960s, Pomeranski reimagines a particular time and place very different to the gentrified South London neighbourhood of today. Now black-and grey-corporate outfits fill the streets, new hipster stores have purposely paint-chipped rustic interiors, and the over-priced street-food is largely for tourist consumption.
A motley crew is reunited at Benny Pomeranski’s funeral which “took place at a burial ground in Essex on a cold November morning in the year 2000, a week after his eighty-first birthday.” His son Simon recites the mourner’s prayer, the Kaddish, and then with his mother, Bertha, leads the way to the open grave where relatives and close friends shovel a handful of soil on to the coffin. Continue reading Review | Pomeranski by Gerald Jacobs | Book of the Week
Worldwide interest in Korean fiction and film has blossomed and bloomed since Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin won the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize; The Vegetarian by Han Kang won the Man Booker International Prize 2016; and the film Parasite (written, directed and produced by Bong Joon Ho) carried off four Oscars in 2020.
The latest recently-published offerings on our radar are The Great Homecoming by Anna Kim (Granta) which will be reviewed in the Spring; and Winter in Sokcho; its author, Elisa Shua Dusapin, is Franco-Korean, born to a French father and a South Korean mother, like the heroine of her first novel.
“Old Park hadn’t moved on from the days after the war, when guests were lured like squid to their nets, dazzled by strings of blinking lights. From the boiler room, on clear days, I could see the beach stretching all the way to the Ulsan mountains that swelled on the horizon . . . People washed up there by chance when they’d had too much to drink, or missed the last bus home.” Continue reading Review | Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin | Daunt Books Publishing