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Published in conjunction with Hwang Sun-won's The Book of Masks (p. 940), this atmospheric collection by South Korean Heung-gil is concerned mostly with the ways that cultural and political tension impinges on family life. All of these stories here are dark and foreboding. ""The Rainy Spell"" uses mood (""The rain came sometimes in fine powdery drops, or in bard, fierce balls, threatening to pierce the roof "") to enhance a conflict betweeen paternal and maternal grandmothers after the maternal grandmother accurately foresees the death of her son in war. In the title story, an adolescent narrator tells how a woman who loses her home and status in the wake of military liberation from the Japanese enters into a grotesque, hate-filled conflict with her daughter. ""Fuel"" is a haunting series of instances wherein various sorts of fuel--pine boughs to clear blocked flues, coal, and peat--are taken, either legally or illegally, before the hard-luck father and his son view the sky from a gravelike hole. ""The Man Who Was Left As Nine Pairs of Shoes"" is a long. perambulating saga about a narrator (a new landlord) and his tenant, an impove fished man who is followed in Kalkaesque fashion. As in earlier pieces, much darkness leads to a summarizing scene that suggests the barest possibility of charity or grace. Finally, ""Gang Beating,"" not as sharply focused as the others, is a biography of a tearoom and a cook there who is plagued by rumors until his suicide. A notable introduction to one of the writers of South Korea's postwar generation--it merges post war trauma with contemporary economic and cultural distress.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1989
Publisher: Readers International--dist. by Consortium (213 E. 4th St., St. Paul, MN 55101)