The Literature Translation Institute of Korea sums Ha’s work up:
Ha Seong-nan (1967~ ) is known for what the critics have termed “microscopic depiction.” Her early works, in particular, provide superb examples of her ability to use words to paint a meticulously detailed and finely nuanced picture of ordinary people and events without being verbose or sentimental. Beyond mere descriptive prowess, however, Ha’s works exhibit the author’s thorough understanding of her subject matter as well as the care with which she examines seemingly mundane and trivial events. Often, she does not rely on direct description of outward appearances or personality traits to visualize a character but instead weaves a complex picture of memory, expressions, landscapes and surrounding objects that bring a character to life. “Flowers of Mold” features a man who searches through garbage for truth. Each bag of garbage bears a particular signature of the household that produced it, the man believes, but even after examining hundreds of garbage bags, he fails to establish a meaningful relationship with another human being. In recent years, Ha has shown greater interest in social issues. The First Wife of Blue Beard is a collection of short stories each revolving around a tragic, but familiar incident that could easily appear on the pages of a local newspaper. In the title story modeled after Perrault’s Le Barbe Bleue, a woman who marries a Korean living in New Zealand learns about her husband’s homosexuality; “Flies” portrays a small-town policeman’s descent into madness. In Ha’s fiction, such incidents as murder, fire, and robbery are treated without sensationalism: she uses those life-shattering moments in life to underscore the fragility of happiness as well as the sense of emptiness that lies at the core of existence.
- Dong-in Literary Award (1999 – “Flowers of Mold”)
- Hankook Ilbo Literary Award (2000 – “Joy to the World”)
- Isu Literary Award (2004)
- Oh Yeong-su Literary Award (2008)
- Contemporary Literature (Hyundae Munhak) Award (2009)
Praised for her meticulous descriptions and ability to transform the mundanity of everyday life into something strange and unexpected, Ha Seong-nan bursts into the English literary scene with this stunning collection that confirms Korea’s place at the forefront of contemporary women’s writing. From the title story told by a woman suffering from gaps in her memory, to one about a man seeking insight in bags of garbage, to a surreal story about a car salesman and the customer he tries to seduce, The Woman Next Door charms and provokes with an incomparable style.
Read all mentions of Ha Seong-Nan on Ladies of Horror Fiction by clicking here.
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