I am a huge fan of Korean translated fiction. Translated fiction in general allows you to get into another culture and learn its history, and way of thinking from an authentic voice.
This novel was set in Korea during the 1970s and even goes into 1980 when the Gwangju Uprising happened. The author describes her life as a country girl who moves to Seoul trying to make it. She ends up working in a factory. There is a push to unionize the factory and she gets caught in the middle of that. She struggles to get education and even get food to eat sometimes. She eventually does make it as a writer but it was a beautiful novel about the joys and difficulty of life.
“This book, I believe, has turned out to be not quite fact and not quite fiction, but something in between. I wonder if it can be called literature, I ponder the act of writing. What does writing mean to me?”
As much as this novel is about her life, it is also about her journey to becoming a writer. Do all great artists need a painful childhood to produce great art? I’m not sure but her life was certainly was a struggle.
If you are interested in another novel that is fully focused on the Gwangju Uprising, you might want to read Human Acts by Han Kang.
Book #49 in my 2022 Reading Challenge