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Book Reviews233 The House of Twilight. By Yun Heung-gil. Edited and with an introduction by Martin Holman. London: Readers International, 1989. Yun Heung-gil is a major figure in the generation of writers dominating the current Korean literary scene. He and his colleagues are the ones who broke the silence that had long blanketed such questions as territorial division, the other Korean war that the people fought, and the massive trauma that such brutality inflicted. This generation of writers also confronts the social and psychological cost of industrialization paid by Koreans over the last twenty years. They are the ones to strip away the glory of the "Glorious Recovery" — kwangbok, a name for the 1945 liberation from Japan — to reveal its inner irony of painful loss. Yun Heung-gil, born in. 1942, belongs to the generation that is called the Liberation Generation for its birth, the Han'gul Generation for its education, or the April 19th Generation for its political and social involvement. He made his debute in the Han'guk Ubo as winner of that newspaper's 1968 new writer's prize for his "Hoesaek myöllyugwan ui kyejöl" (Season of the gray crown) and confirmed his position as a rising talent with uHwanghon ui chip" (The house of twilight) in Hyöndae tnunhak for March 1970. In the anthology under review, also named The House of Twilight, we are now given a representative collection of Yun's short- and medium-length fiction in the English translations of Suh li-Moon, Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton, Ch'oe Hae-ch'un, and Martin Holman (who serves as editor). The six selections all date from the 1970s, a period when young writers were reacting to the social and cultural impact of a traumatically rapid industrialization. These writers were stirred to action by change that seemed to wrench Koreans away from life's natural rhythms, contradict their traditional values, rob them of a sense of oneness with their culture, and cast them into a state of inhumane alienation. Yun Heung-gil and his colleagues created a literature of the times so responsive to its period that it became distinguished in critical circles as the "Literature of the 1970s," a kind of time-based terminology that is usually avoided in the belief that such a profound correspondence simply does not happen. Scholar and critic Kwön Yöngmin of Seoul National University 234Journal of Korean Studies defends the use of this uniquely self-referential term is his award-winning paper, "The Logic and Practice of Nationalist Literature."1 While acknowledging that it is unusual to associate literature closely with a period of time, he asserts that some literature so captures the prevailing Zeitgeist that a single periodized concept is justified. "While the concept of a period of time is, of course, embedded in the expression 'Literature of the 1970s,' there is also a sense in this that embraces not only the attributes of the period, itself, but also the shape and meaning of the literature which tries to respond to those attributes."2 Kwön points out that during the decade of the 1970s two distinct and contrary tendencies were emerging in Korean society and culture. On the one hand, an amusement-seeking, materialistic culture of consumption was blossoming in the forced draft of rapid industrialization and urbanization at the cost of increasing rural impoverishment. And, at the same time, a new awareness of Korean ethnic culture was emerging from the effort to overcome social discord spawned during industrialization and, in so doing, to recover a sense of national wholeness. Some writers, like Cho Sehüi, confronted the times in direct and explicit terms, writing stories that were not only set in urban Korea of the 1970s but also shaped in such a way that even their literary form evoked the harsh realities of social discord.3 But Yun Heung-gil, on the other hand, while every bit as much engaged with the contemporary scene as Cho Sehüi, chose an indirect approach to the questions it raised for him. The six stories in The House of Twilight deal with human relationships in a world that doesn't care. Although...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1665
Print ISSN
0731-1613
Pages
pp. 233-238
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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