Commenter Charles (the other) frequently asks about fiction from North Korea, but the simple fact is there is not that much of it. Poking around with Google and Amazon reveals only one novel, Jia: A Novel of North Korea, but even that is by a South Korean, Hyejin Kim. And if you just do a general search on Amazon, you find that pretty much all fiction about North Korea is done by authors who are not North Korean. I suppose one of the questions is who would be translating NK lit and who would be publishing it – Kind of an even more concentrated version of the problem for South Korea.
Nothing seems to really reflect the kind of literature that one would expect to see from North Koreans themselves – that is “Juche realism” (LOL, if that term isn’t contradictory).
With that background, it is refreshing to see an academic book (at least) talking about North Korean literature. The book is called Soldiers on the Cultural Front: Developments in the Early History of North Korean Literature and Literary Policy, by Tatiana Gabroussenko of the Australian National University. The book only covers the period from 1945 to 1960, but of course that was a rather important era in the history of North Korea and, one would guess by extension, its literature.
It’s published by Hawai’i University, which has this to say about the book:
Soldiers on the Cultural Front represents the first consistent research on the early history of North Korea’s literature and literary policy in Western scholarship. It traces the introduction and development of Soviet-organized conventions in North Korean literary propaganda and investigates why the “romance with Moscow” was destined to be short lived. It reconstructs the biographies and worldviews of major personalities who shaped North Korean literature and teases these historical figures out of popular scholarly myth and misconception. The book also investigates the specific forms of control over intellectuals and literary matters in North Korea. Considering the unique phenomenon of North Korean literary critique, the author analyzes the political campaigns and purges of 1947–1960 and investigates the role of North Korean critics as “political executioners” in these events. She draws on an impressive variety and number of sources—ranging from interviews with Korean and Soviet participants, public and family archives, and memoirs to original literary and critical texts—to present a balanced and eye-opening work that will benefit those interested in not only understanding North Korean literature and society, but also rethinking forms of socialist modernity elsewhere in the world.
So, if you want a bit of peer through the NK literary window, this is a book to pick up and for an academic book it is relatively inexpensive on Amazon at $33.55.