Our Twisted Hero

Yi Mun-yol

translated from the Korean by Kevin O'Rourke
Minumsa 1988
A book review by Danny Yee © 2004 http://dannyreviews.com/
When Han Pyongt'ae is twelve, his family moves from Seoul to a provincial town and he joins a new elementary school. He finds his class totally under the thumb of Om Sokdae. Sokdae is not a bully but a genuine dictator, a charismatic leader who maintains order as much by cleverness as by force, and who mobilises the class to achieve and against outsiders. For months Pyongt'ae fights his rule, attempting to stage a revolt, refusing to kow-tow, and facing ostracism and harassment as a result. Eventually he gives in and, raised to be Sokdae's right-hand man, comes to enjoy the privileges of power. Then a new teacher arrives and everything falls apart...

Our Twisted Hero is clearly an allegory for Korean politics, for the transition from an arguably benevolent but totalitarian regime to an uncertain democracy. It is never didactic or clumsy, however, and it works as a story of a child at school, without any political background. While the setting is Korean, the individual quandary is universal — the psychological lure of the strongman and the comfort and security he brings. Our Twisted Hero is short — more a novella than a novel — but spare and unadorned and focused; as a study in childhood politics it can stand next to Lord of the Flies.

February 2004

External links:
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
- review and links at the Complete Review
Related reviews:
- Yi Mun-yol - The Poet
- more Korean literature
%T Our Twisted Hero
%A Yi Mun-yol
%M Korean
%F O'Rourke, Kevin
%I Minumsa
%D 1988
%G ISBN 0786866705
%P 119pp