Winner of a 2021 National Book Award, this work in translation takes place during winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape. The two form an uneasy relationship. When she agrees to accompany him on trips to discover an authentic Korea, they visit snowy mountaintops and dramatic waterfalls, and cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows. As she's pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen.
...this short, exquisite novel is not easily defined by a simple artist-muse relationship ... the brevity and pacing of its vignettes are also reminiscent of comics, Kerrand's books having 'no dialogue, very few words.' Conversely, Dusapin's beguiling work resembles a vibrant graphic novel, sans pictures ... This irresistible and spare novel sketches with exquisite depth a season of searching for both a French Korean woman and a French visitor.
...engrossing ... Winter in Sokcho is an enigmatic, beguiling book that documents stasis and the helplessness felt by someone trying to overcome it ... Dusapin is equally adept at depicting exterior landscapes ... The conflict with North Korea makes for interesting background detail ... This finely crafted debut explores topics of identity and heredity in compelling fashion. In its aimless, outsider protagonist there are echoes of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman and Jen Beagin’s Pretend I’m Dead ... engaging.
[A] compact first novel ... Dusapin’s terse sentences are at times staggeringly beautiful, their immediacy sharply and precisely rendered from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins ... Oiled with a brooding tension that never dissipates or resolves, Winter in Sokcho is a noirish cold sweat of a book.