Wayfarer: New Fiction by Korean Women // Edited and Translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton.
In recent years, many eyes have turned to Korea, both in fear and in awe. The nuclear tension has risen and fallen, fluctuating madly, involving not just the two Koreas and its neighboring nations but also others across the Pacific. Kpop, Kdrama, and Kbeauty have infiltrated the greater part of Asia under the banner “Hallyu.” In fact, Korean culture is also wildly popular in the Americas. Korea is currently one of the most buzzed about countries in the world.
Modern Korean literature lags behind, however, not in importance but in accessibility, which is a loss. And this is even more true of Korean woman authors. Thus, Wayfarer is an attempt to address this vacuum: eight of modern Korea’s best storytellers -- all of whom happened to be women -- share about the pain of invisibility, loneliness, and betrayal, but also the strength of resilience, grit, and a rich interior life. “The quest of Korean women writers for acceptance both at home and abroad and to their anticipation of the day when they will no longer be distinguished by their gender but will be known simply as writers” (XIV). So, Wayfarer takes this important first step in achieving this quest.
Most of these short stories are delightful and can be read within 30-60 minutes. But these are translated works -- there will always be something lost. So, two or three short stories dragged on at times, but my hunch was the translation’s fault, not the authors’. Before reading any short stories, read the introduction: it states the overarching theme, lists short summaries, and whets one’s appetite. In particular, I loved “Dear Distant Love” by Seo Yeong-eun, “Identical Apartments” by Park Wan-so, and “The Flowering of Our Lives” by Kong Seon-ok.