Best-selling novelist Shin Kyung-sook’s latest work, “I’ll Be Right There,” was published in English in the United States last week.
It is her second book to be translated into English, after her critically acclaimed 2009 novel “Please Look After Mom” was translated and published in English in 2011, selling over 2 million copies worldwide.
“I’ll Be Right There” begins with protagonist Jung-yoon receiving a call from her ex-boyfriend of eight years that their beloved literature professor, who inspired her deeply, is deathly ill. The phone call takes her back to her formative college days in the 1980s when the campus air was filled with the smell of tear gas from the ongoing student political riots.
|Shin Kyung-sook’s latest work, “I’ll Be Right There,” was published in the U.S. last week. ( Other Press)|
The phone call, as suggested by the Korean title which literally translates as “When the Phone Rings,” forces her to relive the past she has forgotten, including strained relationships, aspiration for literature and, most of all, the pain of loss and loneliness.
Shin, who was a college student in 1980s just like the narrator, vividly illustrates the character’s complex yet fragile state of mind as well as the tragic aftermath of the political uprising. In doing so, she frequently refers to European literature, bridging the gaps of East and West while delivering the universal understanding of love, friendship and solitude.
“Shin writes wonderfully about intimacy and the longing of lonely people. At its best, ‘I’ll Be Right There’ is a hopeful work about the power of art, friendship and empathy,” said Hector Tobar of the LA Times in his review of the book.
The book was first published in 2010 in Korea and translated into a number of languages and released in many countries including Taiwan, China, Spain, Italy, Poland and Norway prior to this English translation. Shin presented her work in New York last week at the Korea Society.
Her first English-translated book “Please Look After Mom” was an international bestseller, receiving a number of international awards including the Man Asian Literary Prize from the U.K. She was the first South Korean and woman to win the honor.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)