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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.
Columbia University Press
— Barbara Lloyd McMichael
— David McCann
— Youngju Ryu
Stories within stories unfold in the title novella: a brother "disappears," a mother grieves, a daughter witnesses her mother's death; consequent traumatic events leave the daughter self-destructive. The novella is haunting, painful and affirming, full of illusions and hallucinations while rooted in the graphically physical. In "Whisper Yet," a woman's thoughts about her daughter alternate with a story from her own childhood that she's never told anyone before, a device through which three generations and two Koreas coexist. In "The Thirteen-Scent Flower," the world is one that slides deftly from fable to satire as a truck driver who dreams of becoming "a denizen of the Arctic" crosses paths with a suicidal teenage girl with a preternaturally green thumb. Everything about Yun's work is brilliant. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
There a Petal Silently FallsWhisper YetThe Thirteen-Scent FlowerAfterword
Columbia University Press
Posted September 2, 2013