South Korean corporate culture (Hyundai, Daewoo, Samsung et al.) is omnipresent in the West. New Korean cinema, with its trademark blend of the art house and the commercial, is now sweeping into our theatres. Literature is a rarer thing, but it is coming. "The Reverse Side of Life" is one such example, a landmark book that was awarded the Daesan Prize, South Korea's equivalent of the Booker Prize. Bak Bugil's father is a genius. Everyone in the village expects him to pass the civil service examination and become a judge. Except that he hasn't been seen since he left to study in Seoul. Bak lives with his mother and his father's relations. At the end of a path that leads to rear of their house is a persimmon tree and an old ramshackle hut. Children are forbidden by grown-ups to go near the tree, but Bak makes repeated incursions to collect the forbidden fruit. Every time his uncle catches him, he is severely rebuked and physically beaten. But an encounter with the inhabitant of the hut changes his life forever. Decades later, a journalist (the narrator) is asked to write an article about one of South Korea's most unique writers, Bak Bugil.
Initially reluctant, the journalist begins to develop a curiosity about Bak's past. He decides on a reconstruction of Bak's childhood through a careful examination of his novels, press articles and interviews. Yet on meeting Bak, it becomes clear that he finds childhood recollection painful and difficult. At the strata of his earliest memories, firmly fixed like a fossil, is a face, lonely and dark. It stands like a watchman guarding the path to childhood memory. For him to remember is equivalent to unearthing that fossil and confronting the face imprinted there. The journalist knows that that if he is to write a single word about Bak it will be impossible without meeting that face. In "The Reverse Side of Life", Lee Seung-U launches a literary detective on his own autobiographical roots. Dealing with childhood shame, abandonment, rebellion, first love and religious experiment, this extraordinary novel cemented its author's reputation as one of the stars of South Korea's literary scene.
Buy The Reverse Side of Life book by Lee Seung-U from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.
(216mm x 146mm x 17mm)
Peter Owen Publishers
Publisher: Peter Owen Publishers
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Author Biography - Lee Seung-U
Lee Seung-U was born in Jangheung, South Korea, in 1959. One of a new generation of writers to have emerged in that country since the political repression of the 1980s, he is the author of seven novels and three story collections.