Winter in Sokcho
by Dusapin, Elisa Shua; Higgins, Aneesa Abbas (TRN)






It's winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, beyond the beach guns point out from the North's watchtowers. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape. The two form an uneasy relationship. When she agrees to accompany him on trips to discover an "authentic" Korea, they visit snowy mountaintops and dramatic waterfalls, and cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows-the gaudy neon lights, the scars of war, the fish market where her mother works. As she's pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen.





An atmospheric novel about an independent young woman in a South Korean beach town. Dusapin's debut novel depicts a young biracial Korean woman living and working in a small guesthouse in Sokcho, South Korea, a beach town 60 km from the North Korean border. When a mysterious middle-aged Frenchman named Yan Kerrand arrives, off-season, in the midst of the winter slump, the woman is intrigued. She has never met her father, a Frenchman who left her mother after a brief affair, but has studied French language and literature in school and dreams of traveling to the country someday. The novel unfolds in brief vignettelike chapters that reveal the unnamed woman's daily life. After work, she visits her mother, who works in the fish market and is renowned for her delicious octopus soondae. Despite pressure to marry, the young woman is ambivalent about her long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, Jun-oh, an aspiring model in Seoul. Dusapin's novel avoids cliches in the woman's developing relationship with the lonely foreigner, who turns out to be an internationally renowned graphic novelist looking for inspiration for a new book. The woman observes the man and never looks at him as a savior or stereotypical lover. Instead, Dusapin depicts a fiercely intelligent, independent woman who longs to be seen clearly for who she is and the choices she has made, including leaving Seoul to help her aging mother. Higgins' exquisite translation from the French original is a pleasure to read. The descriptions of daily life in the titular town are beautiful, elliptical, and fascinating, from the fish markets near the beach to soju-drenched dinners in local bistros to a surreal glimpse of a museum on the DMZ. Dusapin, who like her protagonist is of French and Korean heritage, has won several awards for her novel in Switzerland, where she lives, including the Prix Robert-Walser and the Prix Regine Desforges. A triumph. Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





An atmospheric novel about an independent young woman in a South Korean beach town. Dusapin's debut novel depicts a young biracial Korean woman living and working in a small guesthouse in Sokcho, South Korea, a beach town 60 km from the North Korean border. When a mysterious middle-aged Frenchman named Yan Kerrand arrives, off-season, in the midst of the winter slump, the woman is intrigued. She has never met her father, a Frenchman who left her mother after a brief affair, but has studied French language and literature in school and dreams of traveling to the country someday. The novel unfolds in brief vignettelike chapters that reveal the unnamed woman's daily life. After work, she visits her mother, who works in the fish market and is renowned for her delicious octopus soondae. Despite pressure to marry, the young woman is ambivalent about her long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, Jun-oh, an aspiring model in Seoul. Dusapin's novel avoids cliches in the woman's developing relationship with the lonely foreigner, who turns out to be an internationally renowned graphic novelist looking for inspiration for a new book. The woman observes the man and never looks at him as a savior or stereotypical lover. Instead, Dusapin depicts a fiercely intelligent, independent woman who longs to be seen clearly for who she is and the choices she has made, including leaving Seoul to help her aging mother. Higgins' exquisite translation from the French original is a pleasure to read. The descriptions of daily life in the titular town are beautiful, elliptical, and fascinating, from the fish markets near the beach to soju-drenched dinners in local bistros to a surreal glimpse of a museum on the DMZ. Dusapin, who like her protagonist is of French and Korean heritage, has won several awards for her novel in Switzerland, where she lives, including the Prix Robert-Walser and the Prix Regine Desforges. A triumph. Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





THE NEXT DAY I went for a walk on the beach that ran the length of the town. I loved this coastline, scarred as it was by the line of electrified barbed wire fencing along the shore. The border with North Korea was barely sixty kilometers away. A wind-scraped figure stood out against the building works in the harbor. The name in the passport flashed through my mind. Yan Kerrand, walking towards me. A dog sprang up from a pile of nets, and began to follow him, sniffing at his trousers. One of the workers called the dog back. Kerrand stopped to stroke it, said something that sounded like "that's okay," but the man put the dog back on its lead, and Kerrand carried on walking towards me.He drew level with me and I fell into step beside him. "This winter landscape is beautiful," he shouted into the wind, taking in the beach with a sweep of the arm.I wasn't convinced he meant it, but I smiled anyway. Over at the landing jetty, the screech of metal could be heard from the cargo ships."Have you been working here long?""Since I left university."His hat slipped, caught in a gust of wind."Can you speak up?" he asked, pressing the hat down over his ears.All I could see of his face was a narrow band. Instead of shouting, I moved closer to him. He wanted to know what I'd studied. Korean and French literature."You speak French then.""Not really."To be honest, my French was better than my English, but I felt intimidated at the thought of speaking it with him. Luckily, he did no more than nod in agreement. I was on the verge of telling him about my father, but I held back. He didn't need to know."Do you know where I can find ink and paper?"The Sokcho stationery shop was closed in January. I told him how to get to the nearest supermarket."Will you come with me?""I don't have much time . . ."He stared at me intently.I said I'd go with him.We walked past an expanse of concrete. An observation tower rose up in the middle of it, pumping out the wailing of a K-pop singer. In town, restaurant owners dressed in yellow boots and green baseball caps stood in front of their fish tanks, waving their arms around to attract customers. Kerrand walked past the window displays without seeming to notice the crabs or the octopuses with their tentacles suctioned against the glass."What brings you to Sokcho in the dead of winter?""I needed peace and quiet.""You've come to the right place," I laughed.He didn't respond. Perhaps I bored him. But so what? His moods weren't my problem. Why should I worry about filling the silences? I was the one doing him a favor. A mangy-looking dog came shambling towards him."Dogs seem to like you."Kerrand nudged it away from him."It's my clothes. I've been wearing the same ones for a week. They must stink.""I told you I do laundry.""I didn't want you getting blood on my clothes."If he was trying to make a joke, it was lost on me. I thought he smelled fine. A mixture of incense and ginger.In the Lotte Mart he took hold of a pen, turned it over and over in his hand, put it down again and then started picking up blocks of paper, ripping open the packaging and sniffing the sheets. I looked around to make sure there were no cameras. Kerrand tested the different textures. He seemed to like the roughest ones best. He scrunched up the paper, touched it to his lips and the tip of his tongue, tasted the edge of one of the sheets. He seemed satisfied and went off towards another aisle. I hid the blocks he'd torn open under some binders. When I caught up with him, he hadn't found what he was looking for. He wanted pots of ink, not cartridges. I asked the assistant and he went to fetch some from the stock room. He came back with two bottles, one Japanese and one Korean. Kerrand didn't want the Japanese ink, it was too fast-drying, he wanted to test the Korean ink. No, that was not possible. Kerrand raised his head. He asked again. The assistant was getting irritated. I asked him in Korean, and he eventually gave in. Kerrand took a clothbound sketchbook from his coat pocket and traced a few lines. In the end he bought the Japanese ink.At the bus stop, there was no one but us."So you're French.""From Normandy."I nodded to show I understood."You've heard of it?""I've read Maupassant."He turned to look at me."How do you picture it?"I thought for a moment."Pretty. A bit melancholy.""It's changed since Maupassant's day.""I'm sure it has. Like Sokcho."Kerrand didn't reply. He'd never understand what Sokcho was like. You had to be born here, live through the winters. The smells, the octopus. The isolation."Do you read a lot?" he asked."I used to, before I went to university. I used to love reading. Now it's more of a chore.'He nodded, tightened his grip on the package he was holding."What about you?""Do I read?""What do you do for a living?""I draw comics."The word "comics" didn't sound right coming from him. It conjured up images of conventions, queuing fans. Maybe he was famous. I didn't read comic books."Is your story set here?""I don't know yet. Maybe.""Are you on holiday?""There's no such thing as a holiday in my line of work."The bus arrived. We each took a seat by the window, on either side of the aisle. The light had faded. I could see Kerrand reflected in the window, his package on his lap. He'd closed his eyes. His nose stuck out like a set square. Fine lines fanned out from his thin lips, traces of future wrinkles. He'd shaved. I cast my gaze up towards his eyes and realised that he was looking at my reflection in the glass too. That same look he'd given me when he arrived at the hotel, friendly and slightly bored at the same time. I looked down. Our stop was announced. Kerrand brushed his fingers against my shoulder as he set off down the alleyway."Thanks for this afternoon."






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