September 3, 2009
After eighteen years of political imprisonment, South Korean Hyun Woo is freed only to find that the Seoul he once knew is gone and the woman he loves is dead. In this beautifully written book, the author uses her diaries and letters, woven with Hyun Woo’s attempts to narrate his own past and present, to chronicle a man trying to find footing on the soil he fought to change, and face his choices and regret.
The novel’s world renowned and accomplished author, Hwang Sok-Yong has confronted these issues in his own life. Born in 1943, Sok-Yong has been imprisoned and exiled in the name of writing about his country, and his characters emanate a dedication and love of their home that is undoubtedly autobiographical. The author’s vivid imagery and veridical descriptions of the activists hiding “underground,” the aftermath of the Kwangju Massacre, and torture at the hand of prison guards is affecting. Chills ran down my entire body when I read the main character Hyun Woo reflect, “Was it really possible for us—and there was not even a handful of us, and we were so young—to change the world with nothing but our noble intentions?” This was not just a story; this was something the author had truly lived.
But don’t just take a reviewer’s word for it: begin reading our ongoing serialization of The Old Garden here.