Mater 2-10: Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2024

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About the Author

Hwang Sok-yong was born in 1943 and is arguably Korea's most renowned author. In 1993, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for an unauthorized trip to the North to promote exchange between artists in the two Koreas. Five years later, he was released on a special pardon by the new president. The recipient of Korea's highest literary prizes, he has been shortlisted for the Prix Femina Etranger and was awarded the Emile Guimet Prize for Asian Literature for his book At Dusk. His novels and short stories are published in North and South Korea, Japan, China, France, Germany, and the United States. Previous novels include The Ancient Garden, The Story of Mister Han, The Guest, and The Shadow of Arms.

Sora Kim-Russell has translated numerous works of Korean fiction, including Hwang Sok-yong's Princess Bari (Garnet Publishing, 2015), Familiar Things (Scribe, 2017), and At Dusk (Scribe, 2018), which was longlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize.

Winner of the 2019 LTI Korea Award for Aspiring Translators and the 2021 Korea Times Modern Korean Literature Translation Award, Youngjae Josephine Bae's translations include Imaginary Athens: urban space and memory in Berlin, Tokyo, and Seoul (Routledge, 2020) and A Global History of Ginseng: imperialism, modernity, and orientalism (Routledge, 2022).


"Undoubtedly the most powerful voice in Asia today."
--Nobel Prize-winner Kenzaburō Ōe

"This nearly 500-page novel opens with a laid-off railroad worker in Seoul camped out on a platform atop a factory chimney, where he will stay for 410 consecutive days in protest. As he braves the elements, his ancestors, also railroad workers, visit to relive the murders, imprisonment and torture they endured under Japanese and US occupation while fighting for better working conditions. The Nobel Prize in literature almost always goes to a European, but for the next one that's awarded to a non-European, I'm rooting for Hwang Sok-yong, perhaps South Korea's most renowned author."
--Leland Cheuk, book critic and author of the No Good Very Bad Asian

A Guardian Book of the Day

"A masterpiece of Korean history."
--Maya Jaggi, The Guardian

"Bittersweet and darkly comic ... richly rewarding read ... This is a novel that shines a light on what it means to be an industrial worker in Korea and to wrestle with the issues of worker exploitation, international tension, and a still-divided nation."
--Driftless Area Review

"[A]n absorbing look at an intriguing period of Korean history."
--Tony's Reading List

--Pile by the Bed

Praise for Familiar Things:

"A powerful examination of capitalism from one of South Korea's most acclaimed authors ... [Hwang] challenges us to look back and reevaluate the cost of modernization, and see what and whom we have left behind."
--The Guardian

Praise for Familiar Things:

"Hwang Sok-yong is one of South Korea's foremost writers, a powerful voice for society's marginalized."
--Deborah Smith, translator of The Vegetarian

Praise for At Dusk:

"Having been imprisoned for political reasons, Hwang has a restrained, delicate touch, alive to the nuances of memory, the slipperiness of the past, and the difficult choices life forces us to make ... Subtly political, deeply humane, a story about home, loss, and the cost of a country's advancement."
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Praise for Familiar Things:

"As one of the country's most prominent novelists, Hwang has never shied away from controversy ... With Familiar Things, Hwang turns his attention to the underside of South Korea's remarkable economic development, namely, the vast underclass it has created."
--Boston Review

Praise for Familiar Things:

"Sora Kim-Russell's translation moves gracefully between gritty, whiffy realism and folk-tale spookiness."
--The Economist

Praise for At Dusk:

"It's a regretful, bittersweet exploration of modernization, which picks away at the country's past and present, slowly becoming a moving reflection of what we gain and lose as individuals and a society in the name of progress ... [Hwang's] writing is laced with the hard-won wisdom of a man with plenty left to say."
--Ben East, The Observer