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The Book of Masks

The long life and career of HWANG SUN-WON (1915-2000) spanned the whole trajectory of modern Korean history -– Japanese domination, WWII, ideological strife, the Korean War and harsh division of the country, industrialization, military dictatorships and the protests against them. These events are reflected subtly in his stories, always emphasizing the resilience of the Korean people.

“Stark brilliance.” NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“An extraordinary collection…filled with surprises, with turns and depths of plot and characterization that remind one of just how much room for imagination there can be in a few pages. Although the stories are full of Korea, they are not at all ‘Korean’ in any whimsical, tourist sense. Recommended.” CHOICE

“Small but pivotal moments that are always evocative, although sometimes enigmatic…. Stories that work by indirection and suggestion, delicate and metaphorical.” KIRKUS

“Hwang Sun-won…is a literary giant of a Korean generation that came into contact with the early tide of Western influence in the 1930s…. An extremely varied and versatile writer who began as a poet, made his reputation with lyrical stories of village life and went on to address the harsh realities of war and urban deprivation…. He shows a preference for considering the poorest and most disadvantaged, and often forces our sympathies in unexpected places. Always compulsively readable.” THIRD WORLD QUARTERLY

“In this memorable collection, South Korean virtuoso Hwang proposes that the divisions we perceive -– enemy/ally, growth/decline, North/South -– are purely deceptive, artificial…. Martin Holman’s introduction underscores the poignancy of Hwang’s vision of the unity of existence by sketching the tumultuous political history of 20th-century Korea.” PUBLISHERS’ WEEKLY

Cover image: extremely rare and revealing Self Portrait from classical Asian art, by Korean artist Yun Du-so (1668-1715).