• Book Review
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Book Review : Dust and Other Stories (Columbia University Press)

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  • Published Date
    April 1, 2018


To read Janet Poole’s sensitive translation of Yi T'aejun’s Dust and Other Stories is to experience both amazed discovery and a profound sense of loss. How could such a remarkable writer have his legacy effaced in his lifetime, and his death go unrecorded? Yet while the darkness about which Yi wrote might have swallowed him whole, Janet Poole has here achieved a reclamation. Dust brings Yi back to the light.

<Susan Choi, author of My Educatio>


Translator Poole’s impressive introduction not only contextualizes Yi’s significance in the Korean canon but champions the rightful restoration of his erased stature, an unfortunate result of Yi’s 1946 Seoul-to- Pyongyang move. With Korea’s 1950 separation came the censorship of Yi’s work on both sides of the thirty-eighth parallel. . . . Loosely linked by Yi’s alter ego, writer Hyn, these stories capture precarious daily life under occupation, the challenges of liberation, and the ensuing chaos of U.S. military control. Extraordinary as both historical record and illuminating literature, Yi’s stories reveal modern Korea through the voices of young women unbroken by destitution, lonely traitors searching for companionship, aging friends reliving lost youth, jobless men dreaming of comfort, even truculent old women finally lured into literacy. 

<Booklist (starred review)>


In its critical selection and introduction of Yi T’aejun’s short fiction, Dust stands alongside Poole’s Eastern Sentiments in bringing before an English-language readership the masterworks of this important author, here in a superb translation that does justice to the nuanced complexity of Yi’s prose. 

<Christopher Hanscom, University of California, Los Angeles>


In this sensitive, nuanced, and eminently readable translation, Janet Poole brings us a full spectrum of short stories by a writer whose work has been sorely underrepresented and unavailable. This volume is an absolute must-have for anyone wanting to study Korean literature or, in these urgent times, gain insight into the rifts between North and South Korea. 

<Heinz Insu Fenkl, State University of New York at New Paltz>


This eloquent book masterfully restores the quiet, nostalgic voices of Yi T’aejun’s fiction while also positing a connection between early North Korean literature and its colonial antecedent. Poole’s judicious selection of midcentury short stories is an important contribution to Korean literature in translation. 

<Samuel Perry, Brown University>


Dust and Other Stories is an evocative collection by one of Korea’s modernist masters that explores some of twentieth-century Korea’s tortured relations: those between art and life, the individual and history, and the private and public. Poole’s deep knowledge of this era and her profound empathy for the writer breathe life into colonial Korea’s most memorable characters. 

<Dafna Zur, Stanford University>


Yi T’aejun was among Korea’s most acclaimed short-story writers. . . . This collection, assembled and translated by University of Toronto historian Janet Poole, brings together 12 of his best short fiction, spanning his entire career, written in both the south and the north. 

<Sarah Murdoch, The Toronto Star>


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