Reviews of Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Dusapin

Winter in Sokcho

by Elisa Dusapin

Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Dusapin X
Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Dusapin
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Apr 2021, 160 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Book Summary

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 exquisitely-crafted debut, which won the Prix Robert Walser, Winter in Sokcho is a novel about shared identities and divided selves, vision and blindness, intimacy and alienation. Elisa Shua Dusapin's voice is distinctive and unmistakable.

Excerpt
Winter in Sokcho

HE ARRIVED bundled up in a woolen coat.

He put his suitcase down at my feet and pulled off his hat. Western face. Dark eyes. Hair combed to one side. He looked straight through me, without seeing me. Somewhat impatiently, he asked me in English if he could stay for a few days while he looked around for something else. I gave him a registration form to fill in. He handed me his passport so I could do it for him. Yan Kerrand, 1968, from Granville. A Frenchman. He seemed younger than in the photo, his cheeks less hollow. I held out my pencil for him to sign and he took a pen from his coat. While I was checking him in, he pulled off his gloves, placed them on the counter, inspected the dust, the cat figurine on the wall above the computer. I felt compelled, for the first time since I'd started at the guest house, to make excuses for myself. I wasn't responsible for the run-down state of the place. I'd only been working there a month.

There were two buildings. In ...

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  • award image

    National Book Awards
    2021

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Short, staccato sentences propel the story forward with the brevity and momentum of a journal entry. There is a deceptive amount of skill on show, however. Dusapin achieves much with little, conjuring the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of Sokcho to great effect, making for a surprisingly evocative reading experience. The bittersweet conclusion feels in keeping with the novel's overall tone and approach. Dusapin says just enough to hint at the profound impact the characters have had on each other, while leaving room for both to continue exploring their identities beyond the page...continued

Full Review (548 words).

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(Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin).

Media Reviews

Huffington Post
A masterpiece.

New Statesman (UK)
A masterful short novel.

The Guardian (UK)
Oiled with a brooding tension that never dissipates or resolves, Winter in Sokcho is a noirish cold sweat of a book.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Dusapin's novel avoids clichés...[and] depicts a fiercely intelligent, independent woman who longs to be seen clearly for who she is and the choices she has made...The descriptions of daily life in the titular town are beautiful, elliptical, and fascinating...A triumph.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[L]uminous...Dusapin's precise sentences, expertly translated by Higgins, elicit cinematic images and strong emotions. This poignant, fully realized debut shouldn't be missed.

Irish Times
Enigmatic, beguiling . . . This finely crafted debut explores topics of identity and heredity in compelling fashion. In its aimless, outsider protagonist there are echoes of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman.

Author Blurb Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine
Mysterious, beguiling, and glowing with tender intelligence, Winter in Sokcho is a master class in tension and atmospherics, a study of the delicate, murky filaments of emotion that compose a life. Dusapin has a rare and ferocious gift for pinning the quick, slippery, liveness of feeling to the page: her talent is a thrill to behold.

Author Blurb Lara Williams, author of Supper Club
A vivid, tactile, often claustrophobic, and gorgeously written novel. An absolute joy from beginning to end.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Growing Support for Translated Literature

Booker Prize logo atop stack of books recognized for international prize in 2021In 2007, the University of Rochester launched Three Percent, an online database that aimed to strengthen support for translated literature within the US market, supplementing the work of their translation press, Open Letter — publisher of Elisa Dusapin's Winter in Sokcho. The project was a response to reports at the time that a mere three percent of books published in the US were works in translation. But how have things changed since then?

It does seem that respect for the value of translated literature is growing within the industry itself, slowly but surely. Though an early form of the International Booker Prize was established in 2005, for example, it was initially awarded just once every two years to an author for their ...

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