Toni Morrison’s next novel “Home” to include Korea

KTLIT LogoI suppose this is good news?  One of the things that I have always argued would demonstrate the successful globalization of Korean literature was when it was used in ‘secondary cultural products.’ For instance, the horrible Last Samurai (Tom Cruise) was, well, horrible, but it demonstrated that certain Japanese literary/cultural tropes (samurai) had penetrated the US so deeply that they could be easily utilized by US writers and even star US actors.

Which is why the news that Toni Morrison is writing a novel with a connection to Korea, is good news. But does it have to use one of the only two things that are already cliche about Korea (N. Korean ‘evil’ and the Korean War)?

The works of Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison go beyond thought-provoking to what could better be called thought-demanding, with their lush prose, deep themes and occasional touches of magic or mysticism. But that’s just what readers and critics appreciate about Morrison, who is one of America’s most treasured writers. Her next novel, Home, will be published by Knopf on May 8. It’s the story of a Korean War veteran who returns to small-town Georgia, disappointed in its racist culture and trying to help his emotionally unstable sister while still recovering from the physical and emotional aftereffects of war.

I like it, I just fear that it will re-inforce the weak but existing view of S. Korea, that it is nothing but a wasteland inhabited by villagers and N. Korean invaders.

It will be interesting to see, when Home publishes, how true that is, and how deeply Korea is presented, if as anything other than a convenient war in which to place the source of trauma for a character.

3 thoughts on “Toni Morrison’s next novel “Home” to include Korea

  1. How much will it get into Korea…? Sounds like she’s writing more about the US, mentioning a guy who fought in Korea (as did many, many, many others). Unless the dude goes back to Korea, it probably will portray the country as it was when he was there – a war-torn hell – and a device, as you mentioned, to simply give the character some background.

  2. If ROK is interested in promoting itself in literature, here is another idea:

    As to the point you make:

    “does it have to use one of the only two things that are already cliche about Korea (N. Korean ‘evil’ and the Korean War)”

    I disagree.

    For an American writer (which Morrison is) the Korean War clearly represents the greatest involvement by ordinary Americans in Korea.

    The only way that regular Americans have had access to Korea has been through the US military.

    Few Americans are diplomats, scholars of Korea, etc.

    In contrast, a broad cross-section of Americans were conscripted.

    And, war is a very useful literary scenario to explore issues.

    Really now, would it make sense of her to place an average American into monoglot Korea absent the US military?

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