Three Stories by Ch'oe Yun
Ch'oe Yun is a Korean author known for her breathtaking versatility, subversion of authority, and bold exploration of the inner life. Readers celebrate her creative play with fantasy and admire her deep engagement with trauma, history, and the vagaries of remembrance.
In this collection's title work, There a Petal Silently Falls, Ch'oe explores both the genesis and the aftershocks of historical outrages such as the Kwangju Massacre of 1980, in which a reported 2,000 civilians were killed for protesting government military rule. The novella follows the wanderings of a girl traumatized by her mother's murder and strikes home the injustice of state-sanctioned violence against men and especially women. "Whisper Yet" illuminates the harsh treatment of leftist intellectuals during the years of national division, at the same time offering the hope of reconciliation between ideological enemies. The third story, "The Thirteen-Scent Flower," satirizes consumerism and academic rivalries by focusing on a young man and woman who engender an exotic flower that is coveted far and wide for its various fragrances.
Elegantly crafted and quietly moving, Ch'oe Yun's stories are among the most incisive portrayals of the psychological and spiritual reality of post-World War II Korea. Her fiction, which began to appear in the late 1980s, represents a turn toward a more experimental, deconstructionist, and postmodern Korean style of writing, and offers a new focus on the role of gender in the making of Korean history.
"There a Petal Silently Falls, by one of contemporary South Korea's most respected authors, was an early attempt to confront the scandal of the Kwangju Massacre. Faced with censorship and a regime that denied the atrocities it had committed, Ch'oe Yun evokes in narrative form a trauma that defied narration. Today the vagaries of memory, rather than censorship, threaten to silence the history of Kwangju. May this most welcome of translations serve as a timely reminder of those events of spring 1980." — Janet Poole, assistant professor of East Asian studies, University of Toronto
"Haunting, painful and affirming, full of illusions and hallucinations while rooted in the graphically physical.... Everything about Yun's work is brilliant." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"These three stories are the work of a fiction writer of the very highest order." — Booklist (starred review)
"Ch'oe is a versatile writer who cloaks stark perceptions of individual and social trauma with elegant craft, poignant metaphor, and occasional, sardonic flashes of humor." — Barbara Lloyd McMichael, Seattle Times
"A very welcome addition to existing works of Korean literature in English translation." — Acta Koreana
"It is a great pleasure to see this book added to the Weatherhead Books on Asia list." — David McCann, Pacific Affairs
"Beyond Korean Studies... [this] book should also be read widely by scholars engaged in trauma studies." — Youngju Ryu, Journal of Asian Studies
"A superb collection" — Tony's Reading List
"Winner of the prestigious Tongin and Yi Sang literary prizes, Ch'oe Yun has had more impact on the South Korean literary scene than any other contemporary woman writer. At once experimental, polyvocal, and politically engaged, the stories collected in There a Petal Silently Falls offer a rich, evocative exploration of violence, trauma, and loss in divided Korea. Ch'oe's stories take us well beyond previous literary representations of national division and the 1980 Kwangju Massacre by probing the relationship among desire, fantasy, and memory, all the while locating gender at the center of the making of history. There a Petal Silently Falls represents an invaluable contribution to Korean literature in translation." — Theodore Hughes, assistant professor of modern Korean literature, Columbia University
There a Petal Silently Falls
The Thirteen-Scent Flower