The Korea Herald


[Books News] Author Kwon Yeo-sun gets recognition from peers with 'Seasons of Its Own'

Annual "Book of the Year from 50 Writers" list from Kyobo Book Center compiles 100 favorite books chosen by authors

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Dec. 16, 2023 - 09:01

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Kwon Yeo-sun (left) and “Seasons of Its Own” (Munhakdongne Publishing) Kwon Yeo-sun (left) and “Seasons of Its Own” (Munhakdongne Publishing)

Author Kwon Yeo-sun's “Seasons of Its Own” sits at the top of the annual “Book of the Year from 50 Writers” list recently released by Kyobo Book Center, once again proving Kwon as a writer's writer.

The year-end list initiated by Kyobo Book Center, the country's largest bookstore, in 2016 features recommendations from 50 fiction writers who share their favorite books. Each writer can recommend up to five titles. The 2023 list includes releases from November 2022 to October 2023, with no distinction between Korean and international literature or specific genres.

Among the 100 books recommended in this year's selection, “Seasons of Its Own” received the highest number of votes, handpicked by 12 peers.

‘Seasons of Its Own’

In her seventh collection of short stories and novellas, Kwon weaves together her works spanning from 2018 to 2022, some of them award-winning pieces.

The overarching themes of "memory,” "insomnia" and “relationships” create a narrative tapestry while the characters grapple with their problematic relationships.

The title stems from a verse in one of the featured short stories, “Sky High Beauty”: To distinguish each season beautifully, it takes effort for each season.

This particular narrative reconstructs the character of Maria, who succumbed to illness at the age of 72, through the memories of churchgoers.

"Many excellent books were published this year, and I am fortunate and honored to have secured the top spot. Writing novels can be a lonely endeavor, but receiving encouragement, especially from colleagues in the same profession, makes me forget the solitude. I feel a deep sense of solidarity and happiness being part of such a warm and beautiful community,” said Kwon on Kyobo Book Center's official YouTube channel, after the announcement.

She also claimed the top spot in the inaugural “Book of the Year from 50 Writers” in 2016 with her work, “Hello, Drunkard.”

Kwon made her literary debut in 1996 with the novel “Niche of Green.”

Her latest work available in English is the crime novel “Lemon” (translated by Janet Hong), which delves into the psychological portraits of three women haunted by a brutal, unsolved murder.

Gu Byeong-mo (left) and “Everything That Could Be” (Munhakdongne Publishing) Gu Byeong-mo (left) and “Everything That Could Be” (Munhakdongne Publishing)

‘Everything That Could Be’

Gu Byeong-mo's “Everything That Could Be” and Choi Eun-young's “Even a Very Faint Light” both secure the second spot on the annual list, with votes from five writers each.

“Everything That Could Be” lives up to its title, offering a diverse array of thriller-mystery stories infused with the author’s distinctive sprinkle of dark imagination.

The first story in the collection, "Ninicorachiwupunta," opens the doors to a near-future South Korea grappling with the issue of the costs of care for older adults in a society where the average age is 61. The narrative unfolds against the background of seniors spending their remaining years in nursing homes. The protagonist, a special makeup artist, discovers that her older mother, who is suffering from severe dementia, wants to meet an extraterrestrial being she encountered in childhood.

Did her mother really meet an alien? Is it Ninicorachiwupunta? What begins as a mystery takes unexpected turns.

Gu made her literary debut in 2009 to widespread acclaim with "The Wizard Bakery," a young adult novel. Subsequent works include "The Boy with Gills" and "One Spoon of Time."

Her latest book available in English is "The Old Woman with the Knife" (translated by Chi-Young Kim), which follows a 65-year-old female assassin contemplating retirement in the twilight of her career.

Choi Eun-young (left) and Choi Eun-young (left) and "Even a Very Faint Light" (Munhakdongne Publishing)

‘Even a Very Faint Light’

Choi Eun-young's collection of stories, "Even a Very Faint Light," maintains the critical awareness found in her previous works, while offering a deeper and sharper perspective. Throughout these narratives, women take center stage.

Choi has delved into the intricate and subtle emotions of characters as they navigate the complexities of connection and separation in relationships. Her exploration extends to how personal relationships gain meaning in the broader social context in “Shoko’s Smile” (2016); how the transformative process of healing occurs through the confrontation of memories in "A Person Innocent to Me" (2018); and how the interwoven friendships among women swirl against the backdrop of Korea's modern and contemporary history in “Bright Night" (2021).

Her strength lies in capturing the pivotal moments of a relationship's beginnings and its eventual dissolution, examining the various facets of these relationships in relation to pressing social issues.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Choi’s literary debut.

Her latest book available in English is "Shoko’s Smile" (translated by Sung Ryu), which paints intimate portraits of the lives of young women in South Korea, balancing the personal with the political.