Dust and Other Stories

Yi T'aejun. Translated by Janet Poole

Columbia University Press

Dust and Other Stories

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Pub Date: April 2018

ISBN: 9780231185813

304 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $25.00£20.00

Pub Date: April 2018

ISBN: 9780231185806

304 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $75.00£58.00

Pub Date: April 2018

ISBN: 9780231546348

304 Pages

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List Price: $24.99£20.00

Dust and Other Stories

Yi T'aejun. Translated by Janet Poole

Columbia University Press

Yi T’aejun was one of twentieth-century Korea’s true masters of the short story—and a man who in 1946 stunned his contemporaries by moving to the Soviet-occupied northern zone of his country. In South Korea, where he is known today as “one who went north,” Yi’s work was banned until 1988. His momentous decision did not lead him to a safe haven, however: though initially welcomed into the literary establishment, North Korea sent him into internal exile in the 1950s, and little is known of his fate.

Dust and Other Stories offers a selection of Yi’s stories across time and place, showcasing a superb stylist caught up in the midst of his era’s most urgent ideological and aesthetic divides. This collection unites his earlier modernist masterpieces from the colonial era with his little-known work penned during North Korea’s founding years, offering a rare glimpse into the making—and crossing—of the border between south and north. During the turbulent final years of Japanese rule, Yi’s elegant yet subdued stories championed both his native tongue and the belief in the capacity of art. In the heavily politicized environment of the North, his later works maintain a faith in the art of storytelling and a concern for the disappearance of customs in the throes of modernization. Throughout both eras, Yi focused on ordinary people: old men struggling to understand a changing world, lovers meeting up among ancient ruins, a lively widow targeted by a literacy campaign, a bourgeois couple trying to sustain themselves during the war by breeding rabbits, and more. Magnificently translated by Janet Poole, Yi’s work bears witness to global turmoil with a melancholic sense of enduring beauty.
To read Janet Poole’s sensitive translation of Yi T'aejun’s Dust and Other Stories is to experience both amazed discovery and a profound sense of loss. How could such a remarkable writer have his legacy effaced in his lifetime, and his death go unrecorded? Yet while the darkness about which Yi wrote might have swallowed him whole, Janet Poole has here achieved a reclamation. Dust brings Yi back to the light. Susan Choi, author of My Education
Translator Poole’s impressive introduction not only contextualizes Yi’s significance in the Korean canon but champions the rightful restoration of his erased stature, an unfortunate result of Yi’s 1946 Seoul-to- Pyongyang move. With Korea’s 1950 separation came the censorship of Yi’s work on both sides of the thirty-eighth parallel. . . . Loosely linked by Yi’s alter ego, writer Hyn, these stories capture precarious daily life under occupation, the challenges of liberation, and the ensuing chaos of U.S. military control. Extraordinary as both historical record and illuminating literature, Yi’s stories reveal modern Korea through the voices of young women unbroken by destitution, lonely traitors searching for companionship, aging friends reliving lost youth, jobless men dreaming of comfort, even truculent old women finally lured into literacy. Booklist (starred review)
An excellent collection of stories and historical insights, showing us that reflecting on past events is far easier than predicting how history will unfold. Of course, it’s also, coincidentally, a rather timely publication. . . . when all Koreans are hoping for another small step towards peace on the peninsula, perhaps Yi’s story is a necessary and telling reminder of the human cost of international politics Tony's Reading List
Yi T’aejun was among Korea’s most acclaimed short-story writers. . . . This collection, assembled and translated by University of Toronto historian Janet Poole, brings together 12 of his best short fiction, spanning his entire career, written in both the south and the north. Sarah Murdoch, The Toronto Star
In its critical selection and introduction of Yi T’aejun’s short fiction, Dust stands alongside Poole’s Eastern Sentiments in bringing before an English-language readership the masterworks of this important author, here in a superb translation that does justice to the nuanced complexity of Yi’s prose. Christopher Hanscom, University of California, Los Angeles
In this sensitive, nuanced, and eminently readable translation, Janet Poole brings us a full spectrum of short stories by a writer whose work has been sorely underrepresented and unavailable. This volume is an absolute must-have for anyone wanting to study Korean literature or, in these urgent times, gain insight into the rifts between North and South Korea. Heinz Insu Fenkl, State University of New York at New Paltz
This eloquent book masterfully restores the quiet, nostalgic voices of Yi T’aejun’s fiction while also positing a connection between early North Korean literature and its colonial antecedent. Poole’s judicious selection of midcentury short stories is an important contribution to Korean literature in translation. Samuel Perry, Brown University
Dust and Other Stories is an evocative collection by one of Korea’s modernist masters that explores some of twentieth-century Korea’s tortured relations: those between art and life, the individual and history, and the private and public. Poole’s deep knowledge of this era and her profound empathy for the writer breathe life into colonial Korea’s most memorable characters. Dafna Zur, Stanford University
Translator’s Acknowledgments
Translator’s Introduction
Omongnyŏ
Mr. Son, of Great Wealth
The Rainy Season
The Broker’s Office
The Frozen River P’ae
A Tale of Rabbits
The Hunt
Evening Sun
Unconditioned
Before and After Liberation: A Writer’s Notes
Tiger Grandma
Dust
Glossary

About the Author

Yi T’aejun was born in northern Korea in 1904 and settled in Seoul, where he became one of colonial Korea’s most prolific and influential writers. Yi crossed the 38th parallel to North Korea in 1946. His date of death is unknown.

Janet Poole is a translator and literary historian who teaches Korean literature at the University of Toronto. She is also the translator of Eastern Sentiments, a collection of Yi T’aejun’s essays (Columbia, 2009), and the author of When the Future Disappears: The Modernist Imagination in Late Colonial Korea (Columbia, 2014).