Book of Masks

Hwang Sun-Won, Author, Won Hwang Sun, Author, J. Martin Holmon, Editor Readers International $9.95 (175p) ISBN 978-0-930523-58-9
In his memorable first American collection, South Korean virtuoso Hwang proposes that the divisions we perceive--enemy/ally, growth/decline, North/South--are purely deceptive, artificial. A brief prefatory fable, ``Masks,'' encapsulates this belief: a soldier is killed in battle, his body fertilizes grass that in turn nourishes a cow that eventually is butchered and a piece of it eaten by the man who slew the soldier. The pieces that follow are harrowing extrapolations of the theme. In ``A Numerical Enigma,'' a man driven to madness is plagued by the arbitrariness of numbers, seeing ``9'' and ``6'' as mistaken inversions of each other: ``That's why you have to correct April 19, 1960 the date of a portentous student revolution in South Korea so that it becomes April 16, 1690.'' Holman, who teaches Japanese and Korean literature at a Japanese university, underscores the poignancy of Hwang's vision of the unity of existence by sketching the tumultuous political history of 20th-century Korea. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1989
Release date: 04/01/1989
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