Joining a growing cohort of notable Korean imports, Ha’s dazzling, vaguely intertwined collection of 10 stories is poised for Western acclaim ... PEN/Heim Translation Fund–awarded Hong enables English-language readers access into Ha’s disturbing, unpredictable, oneiric—yet all too recognizable—world in which heat stifles, waste rots, and bonds break; yet, for most, life goes on.
The ten well-crafted works of short fiction collected in award-winning Korean author Ha Seong-nan’s Flowers of Mold are not so much horror stories as just horrible ... Ha’s [stories] are mostly characterized by atmosphere: they make the skin-crawl—not by overly explicit description, although there can be that too, but rather by imbuing her characters with a certain inescapable creepiness ... The stories, it must be said, are uncomfortable if not unpleasant: some readers will enjoy the frisson they deliver, while others may admire their craftsmanship without necessarily finding them to their taste ... Janet Hong’s translation deserves more than a mention. It is fluent to a degree that one might never guess it is a translation at all.
A subtle and strange collection that puts people under the microscope. These stories are as literary and oblique as they come, and yet: there is still obsession, violence, and a pervasive feeling of powerlessness. The people of Ha’s fiction are nameless entities bouncing off their surroundings in near total obscurity. Depicted in short, declarative sentences she builds scenes and fills them with detail with a war reporter’s nonchalance ... While this may not please genre readers looking for the purest devotion to gore and the supernatural—those with a taste for the literary will find a strange and intriguing voice at work in Flowers of Mold. And as horror and art continue to steal and mix with each other, I’m sure we’ll find more—on both sides of the aisle—that continue to push the envelope. Flowers of Mold pushes that envelope with its impressive style and stifling isolation, creating something that’s as strange as it is incisive.