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

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I Am the Clay, Chaim Potok

An old woman and an old man flee from their village outside of Seoul (south of the river Han) when the Chinese join the North Korean People’s Army and invade Seoul for the second time. In the early days of their journey they find a boy, bleeding with a shrapnel wound, in a ditch. Having lost a son in childbirth, she rescues him more than once from the brink of death, her prayers to the spirits constant, while the old man resists helping this stranger. They struggle to survive crossing the mountains and the wretched last winter of the Korean War. In the old man's opinion the boy has special powers that have brought them meat and relative health. While the old woman finds peace in the belief that this is a son sent to her.

This intense character study of two simple people whose lives are utterly altered by war is deeply felt and written with power and grace, without attempting to soften the gruesome brutality of war. It is also an excellent point of view on the Korean War from peasants’ lives.

Excerpt from Chapter 3, page 63:

Fearful, they stood at the mouth of the cave staring into a darkness that would not open itself to their eyes. The dank fungus smell of sun-starved stones and earth brushed against their faces and filled their nostrils.

Knopf, 1992


Matthew Smith said...

glad to see you're posting again :)

Sommy Rhee said...

I just discovered this blog today and wanted to say thanks! I think your blog is fantastic and I'm going to start reading some of the titles listed here :)