RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Kim’s style oscillates between the high/low requirements of her characters: the prose can be omniscient and baroque, offering a drone’s eye view over the highborn, and street-level plain when it comes to urchins ... No ink is wasted on the mundane travails of the average citizen. Everyone is extraordinary, a singular beast in exceptional times, and in Kim’s capable hands this liberty pays off. The plot sweeps us along ... Kim’s choice to bypass the Korean War feels canny and confident, as if to remind us that this is not a history lesson ... Beasts of a Little Land is a stunning achievement. Juhea Kim wrestles with the chaos of a half-century of love, idealism, war and violence, and does so with courage and wisdom.
Nam-Nyong Paek, Trans. by Immanuel Kim
MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Friend...has a cosy, nineteenth-century sensibility detailing the inner travails of a local judge who struggles over the ethical dilemmas of granting divorces in his jurisdiction. If, somehow, a reader were to emerge from a cave with no knowledge of the current world, they might read Friend and conclude that the people of this society are exceptionally lucky to live among such caring authority figures ... the tone is conspicuous not for the overt propaganda but for what is missing, which is critical context. This is North Korean fiction for North Koreans, not a defector novel or exposé for the West. Context is unnecessary for this captive audience. Reading between the lines, however, all is not as stable as it might appear ... Reading Friend is like sifting through a black box for clues into a sealed culture. What is surprising are the domestic details, which imply the similarity of marital problems, whether under a totalitarian government or a democracy. For the Western reader, however, this is a pinhole perspective that provides only a limited insight into North Korea.