It is with regret that KTLIT notes the passing of Korean author Kim Moon-soo, who wrote the awesome (a literary term I seldom use^^) The Chronicle of Manchwidang, a clever and often funny reflection on the costs of modernization. As far as I can tell from the obituaries in Korean, Kim passed away on either the 4th or 5th of this month. The obituaries were rather sparse, and although Kim was a major literary power in his day, he seems to have faded into semi-obscurity as time went by. Too bad if true, as if Manchwidang is any indication, he was both a powerful and subtle writer.
Kim was born in 1939 and attended Dongguk University for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees. Kim’s literary debut included an initial run that may be unprecedented in Korea literature, in 1958 being awarded the Joogang Ilbo prize for Against the Current, in 1959 earning the Chayu Shinmun award for Lonely People, and in 1961 the Choson Ilbo prize for Revival of Heresy. Kim’s only work translated into English seems to be the aforementioned The Chronicle of Manchwidang.
In our original review (I think I’ll re-review it in honor of author Kim) KTLIT said:
The Chronicle of Manchwidang, by Kim Moon Soo, is one of the funniest, if not the funniest, translated Korean stories I have yet read. At the same time it is a well-thought out meditation on familial and social duties and the role of the Korean citizen caught in that web. It is also, remarkably for Korean fiction, the story of a nearly classic western “tragic hero” (a character which is nearly invisible in most translated Korean fiction) Finally, nearly casually, as the other themes play out, it is also an indictment of the costs of modernization. The Chronicle of Manchwidang deservedly won the 20th Tong-in Literature Award.
Did I mention it was funny?
It is sad to hear of Kim’s passing, but I think a decent gesture of respect to a great author would be to head on over to Amazon and buy The Chronicle of Manchwidang.