These captivating short stories portray three major periods in modern Korean history: the forces of colonial modernity during the late 1930s; the postcolonial struggle to rebuild society after four decades of oppression, emasculation, and cultural exile (1945 to 1950); and the attempt to reconstruct a shattered land and a traumatized nation after the Korean War. Lost Souls echoes the exceptional work of China's Shen Congwen and Japan's Kawabata Yasunari. Modernist narratives set in the metropolises of Tokyo and Pyongyang alternate with starkly realistic portraits of rural life. Surrealist tales suggest the unsettling sensation of colonial domination, while stories of the outcast embody the thrill and terror of independence and survival in a land dominated by tradition and devastated by war. Written during the chaos of 1945, “Booze” recounts a fight between Koreans for control of a former Japanese-owned distillery. “Toad” relates the suffering created by hundreds of thousands of returning refugees, and stories from the 1950s confront the catastrophes of the Korean War and the problematic desire for autonomy.
Visceral and versatile, Lost Souls is a classic work on the possibilities of transition that showcases the innovation and craftsmanship of a consummate—and widely celebrated—storyteller.
Hwang Sunwon (1915-2000) is one of modern Korea's most influential writers. His career ranges from the colonial 1930s to the industrial 1990s, and he is the author of more than one hundred stories, seven novels, and two collections of poetry. Four of his novels have been translated into English, most recently Trees on a Slope. Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton are the translators of numerous volumes of modern Korean fiction and have received several awards and fellowships for their translations, including a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship (the first ever awarded for a Korean translation into English) and a residency with the author Ch'oe Yun at the Banff International Literary Translation Center (the first ever awarded for a translation from an Asian language). The Fultons' most recent translation was the critically acclaimed work There a Petal Silently Falls: Three Stories by Ch'oe Yun.