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Han Kang's 'I Do Not Bid Farewell' shortlisted for two French literary awards

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Oct. 29, 2023 - 17:08

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Han Kang (Munhakdongne Publishing) Han Kang (Munhakdongne Publishing)

Acclaimed South Korean author Han Kang’s latest novel, “I Do Not Bid Farewell,” has earned a spot on the shortlists for two prestigious literary awards in France, according to the book's Korean publisher.

“I Do Not Bid Farewell,” translated to French by Kyungran Choi and Pierre Bisiou, has so far been shortlisted for the Prix Femina for foreign literature and Prix Medicis for foreign literature -- on Oct. 24 and Oct. 18, respectively -- according to Munhakdongne Publishing.

The book was published in France in August by Grasset, a leading French publishing house, under the title "Impossibles Adieux,” which means "impossible farewells."

Winners of the Prix Femina are scheduled to be announced on Nov. 6, while Prix Medici award recipients are to be unveiled Nov. 9.

The Prix Femina and Prix Medici are two of the main prestigious literary awards in France, along with the Goncourt and Renaudot awards.

The Prix Femina, established in 1985, has previously acknowledged the works of Lee Seung-u (“The Reverse Side of Life” in 2000) and Hwang Sok-yong (“The Guest” in 2004 and “Shimcheong, The Lotus Path” in 2010).

Han is now a two-time nominee for the Prix Medici, established in 1970, after her previous nomination for “Greek Lessons” in 2017.

The Korean edition (left) and the French edition of “I Do Not Bid Farewell” by Han Kang (Munhakdongne Publishing, Grasset) The Korean edition (left) and the French edition of “I Do Not Bid Farewell” by Han Kang (Munhakdongne Publishing, Grasset)

"I Do Not Bid Farewell" marks Han Kang's literary return five years after clinching the International Booker Prize in the UK in 2016. The book delves into the tragic events of the "Jeju April 3 Incident" from the perspectives of three women.

The Jeju April 3 Incident, also known as the Jeju Uprising, refers to events that unfolded on April 3, 1948, as armed rebels stoked "an uprising under the banner of resistance to the oppression of police and right-wing youth associations," as well as opposition to an upcoming election and the government, while "promoting (the Korean Peninsula's) reunification and independence and an anti-American, save-the-nation movement," according to the Jeju 4.3 Incident Investigation Report by the National Committee for Investigation of the Truth about the Jeju April 3 Incident released in 2003.

The uprising was met with tremendous force and was mostly quelled about a year later, while information about it was heavily censored and repressed for decades. Bloodshed stemming from the event continued until after the Korean War to Sept. 21, 1954, resulting in the death of an estimated 300,000 civilians, roughly 10 percent of the island's total population.

Han described the books as “a story of profound love, or a candle lit in the abyss of human nature, or the history of the Jeju massacre.”

Han received the International Booker Prize in 2016 for “The Vegetarian.” She was awarded the Malaparte Literature Prize in Italy for “Human Acts,” about the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, in 2017, and the San Clemente Literature Prize in Spain for “The Vegetarian” in 2018. “The White Book” was also a finalist for the International Booker Prize in 2018.