Seoul. On the outskirts of South Korea’s glittering metropolis is a place few people know about: a vast landfill site called Flower Island. Home to those driven from the city by poverty, is it here that 14-year-old Bugeye and his mother arrive, following his father’s internment in a government ‘re-education camp’.
Living in a shack and supporting himself by weeding recyclables out of the refuse, at first Bugeye’s life on Flower Island is hard. But then one night he notices mysterious lights around the landfill. And when the ancient spirits that still inhabit the island’s landscape reveal themselves to him, Bugeye's luck begins to change – but can it last?
Vibrant and enchanting, Familiar Things depicts a society on the edge of dizzying economic and social change, and is a haunting reminder to us all to be careful of what we throw away.
‘In Familiar Things, the great Korean writer embraces the social realities of his country. It is the opposite of the economic miracle that he paints for us here. Beyond simple naturalism, Hwang Sok-yong mixes into the actual, the magic of a popular culture steeped in the spiritual.’
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‘Hwang Sok-yong is one of the most read Korean writers in his country, and best known abroad. An activist for democracy and reconciliation with the North, in his books he melds his political fights with the Korean cultural imagination.’
‘A great political book, a plea for a country under the boot of a general, a country embroiled in a fierce power struggle, where ideology has been devoured by productivity, where human beings are nothing more than bellies to be filled for the benefit of industrial producers ... Grandma Willow in her dementia rails, “You're despicable! Do you think you live alone here? You men may all disappear, nature will continue to exist!” Let's hope so!’
‘Hwang Sok-yong is an endearing author. For his perspective on people and things, for the instinctive modesty of his characters as well as his ability to “capture” — to return through fiction — the contemporary history of his country. Even more, to embody it.’
‘Reality, fiction and fantasy mix closely, giving his writing unparalleled power. Hwang Sok-yong’s empathy for his heroes is always accompanied by a fierce rage against the powerful.’
Le Monde Diplomatique