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Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for The Old Garden
Book cover for The Old GardenBook cover for The Old Garden

Translated by Jay Oh

Internationally acclaimed author Hwang Sok-yong presents a tragic love story as two parallel lives. Set against the backdrop of the end of the Cold War and South Korea's political revolution of the eighties, The Old Garden is a tale of faith — to one's ideals, and in one's heart.

Political prisoner Hyun Woo is freed after eighteen years to find no trace of the world he knew. The friends with whom he shared utopianist dreams are gone. His Seoul is unrecognizably transformed and aggressively modernized. Yoon Hee, the woman he loved, died three years ago. A broken man, he drifts toward a small house in Kalmoe, where he and Yoon Hee once stole a few fleeting months of happiness while fleeing the authorities. In the company of her diaries, he relives and reviews his life, trying to find meaning in the revolutionary struggle that consumed their youth—a youth of great energy and optimism, victim to implacable history.

In The Old Garden, Hyun Woo weighs the worth of his own life, spent in prison, and that of the strong-willed artist Yoon Hee, whose involvement in rebel groups took her to Berlin and the fall of the wall. With great poignancy, Hwang Sok-yong grapples with the immortal questions—the endurance of love, the price of a commitment to causes—while depicting a generation that sacrificed youth, liberty, and often life, for the dream of a better tomorrow.

Book cover for The Old Garden
Book cover for The Old GardenBook cover for The Old Garden

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“Hwang Sok-yong is undoubtedly the most powerful voice of the novel in East Asia.”

The Old Garden vividly depicts the tumult of Korean history and the individuals caught in its demands. Hwang Sok-yong, one of South Korea's most important modern writers, poignantly shows us that history is also a story of how individuals live, love, and sacrifice in the tumult of time.”

“Hwang Sok-yong has given contemporary world literature a beautiful gift. Written in a voice that is utterly humanistic, The Old Garden combines multiple narratives that resonate on the levels of the historical, political, and aesthetic. Hwang's masterful command of the novelistic form is evident in his ability to be simultaneously intimate and worldly. Without a doubt, The Old Garden will be seen as the definitive novel of Korea's Gwangju generation.”

“Hwang Sok-yong is the most committed, politically active writer of all those who have been translated from the Korean in recent years.”

“Hwang Sok-yong is one of South Korea's preeminent authors.”

blog — April 15

Hwang Sok-Yong: Shortlisted for the 2024 Man Booker International Prize.

Seven Stories Press author Hwang Sok-Yong is one of six finalists for the Man Booker International Prize! Translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae, the shortlisted book, Mater 2-10 (Scribe UK), is an epic, multi-generational tale that threads together a century of Korean history. 

A contemporary master of Korean literature, Sok-Yong's work grapples with the troubled history of his divided country, resulting in his imprisonment, his exile, and the rare achievement of a wide international readership. Hwang’s novels in English include The Old Garden, a tragic love story set against the backdrop of the end of the Cold War and South Korea's political revolution of the eighties; The Guest, based on the true account of a violent clash between Communist and Christian neighbors in a Korean village town; and The Shadow of Arms, inspired by his experience as a Korean soldier in the Vietnam War. Some of his recent bestsellers in Korea, where Hwang is among that country’s most popular writers, include Baridegi (Princess Bari) and Gaebapbaragibyeol (The Evening Star), a coming of age novel that Hwang wrote as a blog.

Translated from the Korean by Chun Kyung-ja

An atypical war novel exploring Korea's little-known involvement in the Vietnam War, told from the thriving black market of Da Nang.

A young corporal serving in the Korean Armed Forces during the Vietnam War is transferred to the Allied Forces' Criminal Investigation Division in Da Nang. His assignment is to keep an eye on the black market that is flourishing in the country, feeding on the US dollars pouring into an imperialist war.

In the thick web of black market dealings, ideals and ambitions cross and collide. Two brothers find themselves on opposing sides of the war. A Korean beauty hopes to buy herself a new life. And the young corporal struggles to remain indifferent, to be able to forget all that he has seen and done when he returns home. Hwang Sok-Yong sets trafficking, blackmail, profiteering, and hoarding alongside the atrocities and brutalities of a hellish war, making The Shadow of Arms different from other Vietnam War novels—lending a wry and compassionate voice to the universal noncombatant.

 Translated by Jay Oh

Internationally acclaimed author Hwang Sok-Yong presents a tragic love story as two parallel lives. Set against the backdrop of the end of the Cold War and South Korea's political revolution of the eighties, The Old Garden is a tale of faith — to one's ideals, and in one's heart.

Political prisoner Hyun Woo is freed after eighteen years to find no trace of the world he knew. The friends with whom he shared utopianist dreams are gone. His Seoul is unrecognizably transformed and aggressively modernized. Yoon Hee, the woman he loved, died three years ago. A broken man, he drifts toward a small house in Kalmoe, where he and Yoon Hee once stole a few fleeting months of happiness while fleeing the authorities. In the company of her diaries, he relives and reviews his life, trying to find meaning in the revolutionary struggle that consumed their youth—a youth of great energy and optimism, victim to implacable history.

Hyun Woo weighs the worth of his own life, spent in prison, and that of the strong-willed artist Yoon Hee, whose involvement in rebel groups took her to Berlin and the fall of the wall. With great poignancy, Hwang Sok-yong grapples with the immortal questions—the endurance of love, the price of a commitment to causes—while depicting a generation that sacrificed youth, liberty, and often life, for the dream of a better tomorrow.

Translated by Chun Kyung-Ja and Maya West

Based on actual events, The Guest is a profound portrait of a divided people haunted by a painful past, and a generation's search for reconciliation.

During the Korean War, Hwanghae Province in North Korea was the setting of a gruesome fifty-two day massacre. In an act of collective amnesia the atrocities were attributed to American military, but in truth they resulted from malicious battling between Christian and Communist Koreans. Forty years later, Ryu Yosop, a minister living in America returns to his home village, where his older brother once played a notorious role in the bloodshed. Besieged by vivid memories and visited by the troubled spirits of the deceased, Yosop must face the survivors of the tragedy and lay his brother's soul to rest.

Faulkner-like in its intense interweaving narratives, Hwang Sok-Yong's The Guest is a daring and ambitious novel from a major figure in world literature.

Hwang Sok-Yong

HWANG SOK-YONG is one of the contemporary masters of Korean literature. His work, which grapples with the troubled history of his divided country, has resulted in his imprisonment, his exile, and the rare achievement of a wide international readership. Hwang’s novels in English include The Old Garden, a tragic love story set against the backdrop of the end of the Cold War and South Korea's political revolution of the eighties; The Guest, based on the true account of a violent clash between Communist and Christian neighbors in a Korean village town; and The Shadow of Arms, inspired by his experience as a Korean soldier in the Vietnam War. Some of his recent bestsellers in Korea, where Hwang is among that country’s most popular writers, include Baridegi (Princess Bari) and Gaebapbaragibyeol (The Evening Star), a coming of age novel that Hwang wrote as a blog.