My Son's Girlfriend

Jung Mi-Kyung

translated from the Korean by Yu Young-nan
Dalkey Archive Press 2013
A book review by Danny Yee © 2014
The seven stories in My Son's Girlfriend are entirely personal and contemporary in their setting and concerns, with no hearkening back to the familiar topics of Korean fiction, to political trauma or the clash of modernity and tradition. The characters include an avant-garde artist, an investment trader, a stage designer, and a film director, and the plots involve tinnitus, colour-blindness, in-vitro fertilisation, and alcoholism. With a couple of the stories traces of the design ideas still seem visible, but they are lively enough to make any rendering artefacts incidental.

At the core of all the stories are relationships, not so much going or gone wrong as shadowed by loss, by possible paths not taken, and by isolation and separation. They never have the feel of tragedies, however, and any bleakness is offset by Jung's narration, mostly in the first person, which maintains a wry, subtle humour and an ironic distance.

The stories are around thirty pages long and are nicely balanced, maintaining tension and progression while developing their characters and exploring their ideas; it never feels either as if they are too long or that they should have been developed into novels. The closing "Night, Be Divided!" and the title story were the highlights for me, but the collection as a whole is pretty consistent.

November 2014

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%T My Son's Girlfriend
%A Jung Mi-Kyung
%M Korean
%F Yu Young-nan
%I Dalkey Archive Press
%D 2013 [2008]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9781564789105
%P 221pp