There a Petal Silently Falls: Three Stories by Ch'oe Yun

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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

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist (starred review)

These three stories are the work of a fiction writer of the very highest order.

Seattle Times
Ch'oe is a versatile writer who cloaks stark perceptions of individual and social trauma with elegant craft, poignant metaphor, and occasional, sardonic flashes of humor.

— Barbara Lloyd McMichael

Acta Koreana

A very welcome addition to existing works of Korean literature in English translation.

Pacific Affairs
It is a great pleasure to see this book added to the Weatherhead Books on Asia list.

— David McCann

Journal of Asian Studies
Beyond Korean Studies... [this] book should also be read widely by scholars engaged in trauma studies.

— Youngju Ryu

These three stories are the work of a fiction writer of the very highest order.
Janet Poole

There a Petal Silently Falls, by one of contemporary South Korea's most respected authors, was an early attempt to confront the scandal of the Kwangju Massacre. Faced with censorship and a regime that denied the atrocities it had committed, Ch'oe Yun evokes in narrative form a trauma that defied narration. Today the vagaries of memory, rather than censorship, threaten to silence the history of Kwangju. May this most welcome of translations serve as a timely reminder of those events of spring 1980.

Seattle Times - Barbara Lloyd McMichael

Ch'oe is a versatile writer who cloaks stark perceptions of individual and social trauma with elegant craft, poignant metaphor, and occasional, sardonic flashes of humor.

Pacific Affairs - David McCann

It is a great pleasure to see this book added to the Weatherhead Books on Asia list.

Journal of Asian Studies - Youngju Ryu

Beyond Korean Studies... [this] book should also be read widely by scholars engaged in trauma studies.

Tony's Reading List

A superb collection

Publishers Weekly

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231142960
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 5/15/2008
  • Series: Weatherhead Books on Asia Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 1,358,105
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ch'oe Yun, in addition to being an award-winning author, is professor of French literature at S?gang University in Seoul, Korea, and has translated contemporary Korean fiction into French. She received the 1992 Tongin Literature Prize for "The Gray Snowman" and the 1994 Yi Sang Literature Prize for "The Last of Hanak'o." Translations of her works can be found in Modern Korean Fiction: An Anthology (Columbia University Press, 2005) and Land of Exile: Contemporary Korean Fiction. Her writings have also been translated into French and Spanish.Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton are the translators of the Korean women's anthologies Words of Farewell and Wayfarer and cotranslators with Marshall R. Pihl of Land of Exile. They have also translated contemporary Korean novels such as Hwang Sun-won's Trees on a Slope and Cho Se-hui's The Dwarf. Bruce Fulton is the inaugural holder of the Young-Bin Min Chair in Korean Literature and Literary Translation at the University of British Columbia, cotranslator of A Ready-Made Life, coeditor of Modern Korean Fiction, feature editor of Seeing the Invisible, and associate editor for Korea of The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

There a Petal Silently FallsWhisper YetThe Thirteen-Scent FlowerAfterword

Columbia University Press

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