Korean American Books

Summaries and reviews of fiction and nonfiction books by Korean American authors,
books about Korean Americans and Korea, and Korean literature in English translation,
including some academic works and a sampling on the Korean War

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Red Queen, by Margaret Drabble

I read this book and also have read the original, THE MEMOIRS OF LADY HYEGYONG, translated, annotated and introduced by historian and scholar JaHyun Kim Haboush. The first half of Drabble's book, which is a fictional representation of the actual memoirs, seemed like an enormous theft, a disappointing Anglicized version of the actual MEMOIRS. True, the original MEMOIRS can be less accessible than the fictional treatment, but the actual voice of the past presents a reality that cannot be imitated regardless of the attempts at conceits meant to engage Western audiences.

Like seeing the tragedy unfold with one's own eye versus hearing it from a storyteller from another time and another world, If one desires a gripping cultural experience of historical Korea, and especially of this infamous event, I recommend going to the source. But friends have commented on loving this re-creation, especially as this fictional account describes a world that is better understood by the unspoken and taboo: what wasn't said, what wasn't allowed to be spoken of, what words were forbidden, and how the utterance of words mattered so.

Hopefully this book would spur interested readers on to the original MEMOIRS.

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