Park Wansuh’s autobiographical novel Who Ate Up All the Shinga? offers an intriguing and highly personalized insight into one of the most turbulent periods in modern Korean history, and for this reason alone this translation is a highly welcome addition to the growing number of Korean literary works available in English. Charting Park’s own childhood and formative years in late colonial Korea, as well as her experiences of surviving the early part of the Korean War (1950-53), this autobiography also emerges as an apologia of a kind for the often-confused national politics of the period. While the English language translation (perhaps inevitably) does not always entirely capture the playful tone of the original Korean text, Who Ate Up All the Shinga? makes illuminating reading for non-Korean audiences because of the insights it offers to this period in Korean history. Moreover, as the narrative centers by and large on the often-fraught relationship between the author and her mother and so taps into the universal theme of mother-daughter relationships. The novel itself requires very little (if any) prior knowledge of Korean history or culture, making it all the more accessible for a wide reading audience. While Park has sometimes been described as ‘the auntie next door’ because of her appealing chatty narrative style, the protagonist of this novel emerges as quite the opposite as she takes the reader through experiences that eventually drove her to write literary fiction. The autobiographical element of the story affords a certain degree of reliability to Park's account of what happened to her, yet there is something about both Park’s narrative focus and the style of telling that puts the reader at ease about any possible narrative intention. She never pretends to tell the truth about the colonial experience or why the war broke out. At the same time (and often at odds with the way in which many history books emphasize the overarching influence of nationalist movements in Korea of this period), Park writes very candidly about her own mother’s lack of enthusiasm for Korean nationalist politics, explaining how for the majority of Korean people like her mother such things were simply beyond their realm of concern: “Mother was an ordinary woman.



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