Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature & Culture

Volume 1: 2008
Volume 8: 2015

David R. McCann (editor)

University of Hawaii Press 2008, 2015
A book review by Danny Yee © 2016 http://dannyreviews.com/
Consisting mostly of short stories, criticism and poetry, with a sprinkling of art and photography, the format of the annual journal Azalea has remained unchanged since its inception in 2008, though volume one has relatively more fiction and volume eight more criticism. The layout and physical presentation are simple but attractive, and comfortable for reading.

The stories sample both contemporary Korean writers and earlier greats: Hwang Sunwon, Kim Young-Ha and Park Min-gyu appear in both these volumes. Many of them are grouped: a "Writer in Focus" section offers three stories by Kim Young-Ha and two stories by Lee Eyunkee, two science fiction stories are paired, and so forth. Overall I really enjoyed the fiction selection, though my standards for science fiction are perhaps too high.

Taking up about a sixth of each issue, the poetry is presented in selections of five short poems by each poet, each taking up one or two pages (with generous white-spacing). This works well: it is enough to give a feel for a style and a body of work, but not so much as to be overwhelming. A few poems grabbed me and compelled re-readings and, though it's hard to tell in translation and mediated through one editor, I came away feeling I had some kind of grasp of the distinctive features of Korean poetry.

Some of the criticism accompanies the fiction and poetry. "On the Narratography of Lee Chang-dong: A Long Translator's Note" follows the story "The Dreaming Beast" which it discusses (along with Lee's film Oasis), an interview with Kim Young-Ha accompanies three of his stories, pieces by Bruce Fulton and Heinz Insu Fenkl on Hwang Sunwon accompany three of his stories, pieces on So Chongju are grouped with some of his poetry, and so forth. But Kevin O'Rourke's "So Chongju and Modern Korean Poetry" is almost a mini-history of 20th century Korean poetry, and other pieces are equally broad: John M. Frankl's "Inverse Modernity" looks at aspects of modernity in five Korean novels from the colonial period. There are also short essays by and interviews with translators and scholars and visitors to Korea, such as scholar Peter H. Lee and Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk.

Anyone interested in Korean literature in translation should find Azalea a goldmine.

April 2016

External links:
Volume 1: 2008
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Volume 8: 2015
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Related reviews:
- more Korean literature
- more poetry
- more short fiction
- books published by University of Hawaii Press
%T Volume 1: 2008
%Y Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature & Culture
%E McCann, David R.
%I University of Hawaii Press
%D 2008
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9780979580000
%P 416pp

%T Volume 8: 2015
%Y Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature & Culture
%E McCann, David R.
%I University of Hawaii Press
%D 2015
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9780988692848
%P 412pp