Novelist Shin brings Korea to forefront of world literature: critic
HONG KONG (Yonhap) -- Novelist Shin Kyung-sook has opened doors for Korean literature to the world audience, marking the start of the Korean wave in the literary community, a critic has said.
"(Shin is) a great winner who has brought Korea to the forefront of world literature," Martin Alexander, editor in chief and poetry editor for the Hong Kong-based Asia Literary Review, said in a discussion with Shin late Tuesday, which was hosted by the Asia Society Hong Kong Center.
In March, Shin became the first woman and the first South Korean to win the Man Asian Literary Prize for her novel, "Please Look After Mom." The prize is an annual literary award given to the best novel by an Asian writer, either written in English or translated into English, and published in the previous calendar year.
The novel depicts a family's search for their mother, who goes missing one afternoon amid the crowds of a Seoul subway station.
The English translation of Shin's novel entered the coveted New York Times best seller list last year, ranking 21st on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Best Seller List.
"When I read that book, I was overwhelmed by the mystery of it, thinking they are going to find their mother and the mother has to be found, because that's the happy ending. What I realized is this is not about finding a mother," said Alexander.
"I discovered that it's not about physically getting the mother back in the house. It's about finding out about your own mother. That idea about the identity of the lost is something so powerful in that book, making it universal."
The Asia Literary Review, a quarterly literary journal published in Hong Kong and distributed internationally, launched Tuesday a special issue on Korean literature.
Alexander said the issue will mark a watershed for Korean literature, celebrating the identity of Korea and of its writers.
"Apart from Hyundai or Samsung, people had not really known about Korean culture or Korean literature," the editor in chief said.
"K-pop and Korean soap operas are viewed with passion from Iran to Mongolia, but the Korean literature had not really hit the world.
We hope that with the help of Shin Kyung-sook and this edition, it will."