(K. Brent Tomer),
Familiar Things. By Hwang Sok-yong. Translated by Sora Kim-Russell. Scribe; 216 pages; £12.99.
The Impossible Fairy Tale. By Han Yujoo. Translated by Janet Hong. Graywolf Press; 225 pages; $16. Tilted Axis; £8.99.
IN THE mega-cities of Asia and Africa, from Cairo to Manila, urban sprawl throws up trash mountains where enterprising slum-dwellers gather a bare living collecting recyclable junk. Seoul, South Korea’s spruce high-rise capital, no longer looks like such a place. However, Hwang Sok-yong has to travel back just one generation, to the time of Super Mario console games and early Star Wars films, to tell a story about the garbage-pickers of the so-called Flower Island. In his novel “Familiar Things”, on a squalid landfill site outside Seoul amid “towering mounds” of waste, 6,000 people sift and sell the rubbish ferried from the booming city in convoys of…Continue reading