The Square by Choi In-Hun (born in North Korea in 1936, moved with family to South Korea in 1950) is an award winning work of Korean Modernism. Dalkey Archives Press has recently begun publishing translations of highly regarded post World War I I Korean novels and short stories. They have kindly given me review copies of a number of them, including The Square.
The Square focuses on a young man, Lee Myong-Jun whose life reflects the divisions in Korean society. He struggles to decide if North Korea with its Marxist society and militant nationalism represents what is best for Koreans or if the capitalistic industrial Western looking South Korea is the right path. When the Korean War (1950 to 1953) starts Lee joins the North Korean Army and ends up being taken prisoner. After the war he is released and decides to leave Korea, not being able to decide which side is in the right, for India. I was delighted to see the ship was called "The Tagore". The story is told through a series of somewhat fragmented interior monologues while he crosses the Indian Ocean.
I enjoyed my first venture into Korean modernism and will endeavor to read more works this year.
I offer my thanks to Dalkey Archives (dalkeyarchives.com) for a generous gift of books. They publish lots of great books and have a very multicultural catalogue.