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Set in a small rural village, seemingly everyday events take on a macabre meaning. We follow Kim Miyoung, a relatively new villager and the local primary school teacher, as she is slowly overcome by anxiety, with her daughter at the vulnerable young age of three, a difficult group of schoolboys under her wing and her mother-in-law trying to drag her into house-of-cards village politics. To top it all, she finds herself plagued by the idea of son: folklore spirits out to make people’s lives miserable. As the village gathers for the annual ‘meju-making day’, amid all the hubbub, Miyoung loses sight of her daughter Mina. Despite her cries for help, everyone seems to be against her.
KANG HWAGIL is a young Korean writer best known for her 2017 novel Dareun Saram (‘Others’) which won her the Hankyoreh Literature Award as well as a Young Authors’ Prize. She was heralded by the Hankyoreh panel as a ‘new voice’ and received much praise for her fearlessly honest portrayal of Korean society, carrying a confrontational message. A champion of feminist writing in her own right, Kang is often mentioned in one breath with Cho Namjoo, whose Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 brought gender equality and #MeToo to the forefront of South-Korea’s national debate, following its publication in 2016. Kang’s hit novel, like Cho’s, seems to have struck a chord also by way of its unembellished style. She excels in sparse, almost understated prose, leaving the reader to appreciate, in its purest form, the gravity of what is being said.
MATTHO MANDERSLOOT is a translator from Amsterdam. He reads Dutch, English, French, Latin, Greek, and Korean. Based in London, most of his current translation work is of Korean fiction.
Demons by Kang Hwagil