The Guest

The Guest

by Hwang Sok-Yong

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A historical novel of a divided nation from Korea's greatest novelist.


A historical novel of a divided nation from Korea's greatest novelist.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Vivid snapshots from the Korean War and surreal encounters with ghosts intersect in this first major U.S. release by award-winning Korean novelist Sok-Yong. The result-threaded with gritty religious and political undertones-is an ambitious exploration of a postwar survivor's chaotic psyche. Rev. Ryu Yosop, an elderly minister living in New Jersey, is stalked by memories of the horrific 52-day massacre he witnessed 40 years ago in North Korea's Hwanghae Province, where his older brother Yohan played a leading role in the carnage. To confront his past, Yosop returns to his hometown of Ch'ansaemgol for the first time since he immigrated to America 20 years earlier. Drifting between the past and the present, among the living and the dead, Yosop yearns to appease and exorcise the spirits that haunt him. Yosop's struggle becomes truly gripping as he reunites with long-lost family members in North Korea. Chaperoned by Communist Party members who resolutely blame past atrocities on the American military, Yosop remembers all too well that it was his own Christian and Communist neighbors who committed the bloodshed. Though the time-traveling prose takes some getting used to, Sok-Yong eloquently chronicles Yosop's odyssey through guilt, fear, faith and forgiveness. Author tour. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Expert, idiomatic translation renders visible a story that helps explain the present weirdness in North Korea. Full marks to translators Chun and West for deft work with Hwang's excellent depiction of the vicious, nearly lunatic clash between Christians and communists in the period between the end of World War II, when the Japanese colonial masters were ousted, and the Korean War. Ryu Yosop is a Presbyterian minister in New York who, like his older brother Yohan, emigrated from Korea to America. Yohan, also a church officer, has been living alone, his sons off in western states, his wife dead. When Yohan himself dies, days after a prickly meeting with his younger brother, and just before a long-planned trip back to their ancestral village, Yosop makes the trip instead, taking with him some of Yohan's cremated remains. Yosop does not travel alone. He is accompanied by his brother's ghost and the ghost of a servant, representing sides in the horrifying battle for control of the country half a century ago. Hwang coolly presents the chaotic reality of the post-war period, revealing a story much different from that presented by the modern-day totalitarian government. A museum of horrors supposedly visited on a village by Americans, for example, is discovered to have been perpetrated by others. Further truths are exposed as Yosop is taken to meet the wife and son Yohan abandoned when he fled the country. Requires patient reading, but the story, with its great insight into the region, is deeply rewarding.

Product Details

Seven Stories Press
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Penguin Random House Publisher Services
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414 KB

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Meet the Author

Born in 1943, HWANG SOK-YONG is a Korean writer of world renown and the recipient of numerous international awards and honors. His work, which grapples with the troubled recent history of his divided country, has been the cause of his imprisonment, his exile, and finally that rare achievement of a wide readership and appreciation in both North and South Korea.

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