The Korean author of At Dusk reflects on his life as an activist and dissident writer, including his time in the 1990s in the Seoul Detention Center after a visit to North Korea, the country he had fled with his family as a child at the start of the Korean War.
Hwang Sok-yong's expansive memoir—incisively translated by Anton Hur and Sora Kim-Russell—vividly captures a South Korean writer's literal and metaphorical imprisonment ... Cinematic, riveting, elegiac, The Prisoner captures the dialectical tensions in Hwang's life and career in a manner reminiscent of Jacob wrestling with an angel, or the haunting films of South Korean director Lee Chang-dong ... Hwang's prison account—divided into six segments—constitutes the lyrical refrain that disrupts the chronology of his life prior to incarceration. This innovative arrangement eloquently replicates the ruptures and rhythms in Hwang's life and art. While The Prisoner acknowledges free expression's burdens and the North-South struggle's Sisyphean nature, Hwang's epilogue stands firm with his urgent yet timeless warning[.]
... sweeping ... Most potent are the recollections of his five years in the Seoul Detention Center, where he was imprisoned following a trip to North Korea in 1993 ... Sok-Yong reveals a moving picture of one man’s attempts to live within the ambiguities of freedom. This inspiring account shouldn’t be missed.
... this sprawling, detailed chronicle of his life and various imprisonments, [Hwang] delivers a vivid depiction of some of the historical currents that shaped Korea in the 20th century ... Hwang’s extraordinary life is so dense with history and characters that his lengthy account can be difficult to follow, but the descriptions of his time as a prisoner will move readers ... Hwang peppers the narrative with prescriptive visions for relations between North Korea and the rest of the world. He is a consummate storyteller, and even those unfamiliar with the topic will find well-written historical exposition and nuanced characterizations ... A potent history of a remarkable life.