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
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
With the arrival on the scene of indie trade publishers like Deborah Smith’s Tilted Axis Press, and Will Evans’ Deep Vellum Books in the US, bringing new fiction from South-East Asia to English- language readers, and young translators like Mui Poopoksakul bringing Thai literature to the English-speaking world, writing offering an inside take on the region is getting fresh impetus and visibility.
River Books has been a respected publisher of books on the region for many years, offering readers in-depth, insider knowledge about South-East Asian art and culture. Narisa Chakrabongse, the founder and CEO of River Books, is the editor of the Oxford River Books English-Thai Dictionary. Chakrabongse Villas, the family home, is a small boutique hotel in Bangkok.
I caught up with Narisa Chakrabongse some months ago at the launch of Rabbit Cloud and the Rain Makers, and we met up later to talk about her unusual Thai-Russian-British background, being a foreigner living in a strange land and, of course, River Books. Continue reading Podcast LIVE | Talking Thai with Narisa Chakrabongse, River Books | Indie Publisher of the Week