Monday, June 11, 2007

Trees on a Slope

Hwang, Sun-wŏn. Trees on a Slope. Translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2005.

Review by Rebecca Stuhr

The action of this novel takes place during and following the Korean War and follows the fortunes of soldiers who become friends while serving in the army. The soldiers come from different backgrounds, were brought into the army for different reasons, and come out of the war with indelible scars. One of the soldiers commits suicide during the war. Another young man is wealthy and educated, but goes adrift after the war bearing the weight of the brutality of his wartime actions. However, he helps one of his comrades to establish a poultry farm, and another he makes sure has the eye-glasses that he needs. The paths of these men reconnect when the former lover of the soldier who committed suicide seeks them out in an effort to understand what happened and why. Hwang Sun-wŏn describes the brutality that men are subjected to and driven to by the state of war, and how the experience of that brutality leaves them internally damaged with little hope for recovery. Hwang Sun-wŏn published Trees on a Slope in Korean in 1960. It appears in this translation as part of the University of Hawai'i Press's Modern Korean Fiction series (the library also has The Dwarf by Cho Se-hui from the same series).

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