Author(s): Élisa Shua Dusapin
As if Marguerite Duras wrote Convenience Store Woman - a beautiful, unexpected novel from a debut French Korean author
It's winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down: the fish turn venomous, bodies are red and raw, 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. As she begins accompanying him on his trips to discover his idea of an authentic Korea, the two of them begin an uneasy relationship filled with suspended misunderstandings and punctuated by spilled ink. They visit snowy mountaintops, take daytrips to dramatic waterfalls, cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows - the gaudy and beautiful neon lights, the fish market where her mother guts squid and puffer fish, the evening meals she prepares meticulously for the guesthouse. As she's pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen. An exquisitely-crafted novel, which won the Prix Robert Walser, Winter in Sokcho is a novel about shared identities and divided selves, vision and blindness, intimacy and alienation. A natural inheritor to Marguerite Duras, Elisa Shua Duspain's voice is distinctive and unmistakable.