The Future of Silence: Fiction by Korean Women

Bruce Fulton + Ju-Chan Fulton (editors)

translated from the Korean
Zephyr Press 2016

Wayfarer: New Fiction by Korean Women

Bruce Fulton + Ju-Chan Fulton (editors)

translated from the Korean
Women in Translation 1997
A book review by Danny Yee © 2017 http://dannyreviews.com/
The Future of Silence is effectively an updating of the now out-of-print Wayfarer (despite the confusing "New" in the latter's subtitle), including five of its eight stories and adding four new ones.

O Chong-hui's much-anthologised "Wayfarer" is the last story in the anthology it names and the first in The Future of Silence. It is the stark story of a woman facing life stripped of her family and social supports. The other four common stories also explore the psychological and social constraints on women's lives. In Kim Chi-Won's "Almaden" a woman working in a bottle shop fantasises about a regular customer. So Yong-un's "Dear Distant Love" tells the story of an obsessive love, to which the protagonist has subordinated her entire life. Pak Wan-so's "Identical Apartments" captures the emptiness of a middle-class housewife's life. And in Kong Son-ok's "The Flowering of Our Lives" a woman recapitulates with her daughter aspects of her relationship with her own mother.

The four new stories, published between 2007 and 2013, have a distinctly more contemporary feel. Kim Sagwa's "It's One of Those The-More-I'm-in-Motion-the-Weirder-it-Gets Days, and it's Really Blowing My Mind" is a first-person account of a murderous psychotic breakdown. The protagonist of Chon Un-yong's Ali Skips Rope is a girl whose hero is Muhammad Ali, but who faces bullying and relies on a grandmother and an aunt for support. Han Yujoo's "I Ain't Necessarily So" is an abstract fable, an "impossible fairy tale". And Kim Ae-ran's "The Future of Silence" tells the surreal story of a Museum of Moribund Languages.

The three stories dropped in the newer anthology — the longest of the twelve, so perhaps omitted because of their length — are real losses. Two of them directly engage with Korean political history. The protagonist of Kong Chi-yong's "Human Decency" was an activist in the 1980s, helping to hide and support dissidents; she is now, through a choice of features for the woman's magazine she works for, forced to reevaluate that history and its meaning to her. The background to Kim Min-suk's "Scarlet Fingernails" is the penalisation of families with members who supported the North: the protagonist's father has been in prison since she was a baby, and at thirty-seven she is about to meet him for the first time. And Ch'oe Yun's "The Last of Hanak'o" takes the perspective of a middle-aged man, looking back at (and revisiting) a woman who was important to his group of student friends but whom they never understood.

There's a nice variety in these anthologies. They explore the challenges faced by Korean women, and for the outsider considerable interest comes from the unique aspects of Korean history and culture, but the stories are also just memorable and engaging.

June 2017

External links:
The Future of Silence: Fiction by Korean Women
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
- buy from Wordery
Wayfarer: New Fiction by Korean Women
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Related reviews:
- Bruce Fulton - Modern Korean Fiction: An Anthology
- Bruce Fulton, Ju-Chan Fulton - The Red Room: Stories of Trauma in Contemporary Korea
- Bruce Fulton - Waxen Wings: The Acta Koreana Anthology of Short Fiction from Korea
- more Korean literature
- more short fiction
%T The Future of Silence
%S Fiction by Korean Women
%E Fulton, Bruce
%E Fulton, Ju-Chan
%M Korean
%I Zephyr Press
%D 2016
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9781938890178
%P 182pp

%T Wayfarer
%S New Fiction by Korean Women
%E Fulton, Bruce
%E Fulton, Ju-Chan
%M Korean
%I Women in Translation
%D 1997
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1879679094
%P 207pp