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    • July 2012
    • 9780231160667
  • 232 Pages
  • Hardcover
  • $27.50

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    • July 2012
    • 9780231504119
  • 232 Pages
  • E-book
  • $26.99

River of Fire and Other Stories

O Chonghui; Translated by Bruce Fulton and Ju-Chan Fulton

O Chonghui crafts historically-rooted yet timeless tales imagining core human experiences from a female point of view. Since her debut in 1968, she has formed a powerful challenge to the patriarchal literary establishment in Korea, and her work has invited rich comparisons with the achievements of Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, and Virginia Woolf.

These nine stories range from O Chonghui's first published work, in 1968, to one of her last publications, in 1994. Her early stories are compact, often chilling accounts of family dysfunction, reflecting the decline of traditional, agrarian economics and the rise of urban, industrial living. Later stories are more expansive, weaving eloquent, occasionally wistful reflections on lost love and tradition together with provocative explorations of sexuality and gender. O Chonghui makes use of flashbacks, interior monologues, and stream-of-consciousness in her narratives, developing themes of abandonment and loneliness in a carefully cultivated, dispassionate tone.

O Chonghui's narrators stand in for the average individual, struggling to cope with emotional rootlessness and a yearning for permanence in family and society. Arguably the first female Korean fiction writer to follow Woolf's dictum to do away with the egoless, self-sacrificing "angel in the house," O Chonghui is a crucial figure in the history of modern Korean literature, one of the most astute observers of Korean society and the place of tradition within it.

About the Author

O Chonghui (b. 1947) burst onto the Korean literary scene with her story "The Toyshop Woman" ( Wangujom yoin), which in 1968 won an annual new writers' competition sponsored by the Chungang ilbo, a Seoul daily She has since published four dozen short stories and novellas. Among her story collections are The Garden of My Childhood and Spirit on the Wind, which contain the critically acclaimed stories "Evening Game" ( Chonyok ui keim), "Chinatown" ( Chunggugin kori), "Words of Farewell" ( Pyolsa), "The Bronze Mirror" ( Tonggyong), and "Wayfarer" ( Sullyeja ui norae).

Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton are translators of numerous volumes of modern Korean fiction. They have received several awards and fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship (the first ever awarded for a translation from the Korean) and a residency with author Ch'oe Yun at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (the first ever awarded for a translation from any Asian language).

River of Fire and Other Stories tracks the career of one of South Korea's most consummate writers, subtly suggesting the violent undertones of life under military dictatorship and the malaise of urban life, and coming to a close with a moving meditation upon aging. The themes here are universal, yet their expression is unique to the controlled precision and delicate interior description that are so characteristic of O Chonghui's style. A highly enjoyable read.

Janet Poole, University of Toronto

...a strong addition to any international fiction collection, not to be overlooked.

The Toy Shop WomanOne Spring DayA Portrait of MagnoliasRiver of FireMorning StarFireworksLake P'aroThe ReleaseThe Old WellAfterword