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River of Fire and Other Stories

by O Chong-hui Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 232 pages
AU$59.99 NZ$63.47
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O Chonghui is an immensely accomplished author, having won both the Yi Sang and Tongin awards, Korea's most prestigious prizes for fiction. Translations of her works into Japanese, English, French, and other languages have earned her international acclaim, generating comparisons with Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, and Virginia Woolf. O Chonghui crafts historically-rooted yet timeless tales imagining core human experiences from a female point of view. Together with Pak Wanso (Park Wan-suh), she formed a powerful challenge to the conservative literary establishment in Korea, becoming one of the most astute observers of its society and the place of tradition within it. These nine stories range from O'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 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. Her nameless 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 Virginia 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, on par with Kim Sowol, Hwang Sunwon, and Yi T'aejun.

The Toy Shop Woman
One Spring Day
A Portrait of Magnolias
River of Fire
Morning Star
Lake P'aro
The Release
The Old Well

River of Fire and Other Stories make up an important oeuvre which not only maps the author's long, illustrious career but also beautifully illustrates the history of modern Korean literature through women's eyes and voices. Jina E. Kim, Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies, Smith College
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).