cover image Winter in Sokcho

Winter in Sokcho

Elisa Shua Dusapin, trans. from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins. Open Letter, $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-9488-304-16

Dusapin’s luminous debut follows a young French Korean woman as she wrestles with desire, daughterhood, and identity. The narrator, 24, works as a receptionist at a guesthouse on the border of North and South Korea. Her boyfriend, Jun-Oh, a model who is away in Seoul, and her mother have pressured her to get plastic surgery to conform to the country’s beauty standard, but she refuses. During the wintry off-season, French comic book writer Yan Kerrand checks in. She is captivated and unnerved by Kerrand’s presence, and soon a flirtation develops. Kerrand is in search of inspiration for the final issue of his series, and the narrator agrees to teach him about the landscape and history of the area. As she contends with her mother’s sharp and constant criticism, along with anxiety over the volatile state of life along the border (“We’re on a knife-edge.... In a winter that never ends”), she falls in love with Kerrand, then worries he’ll be driven away after Jun-Oh returns. Dusapin’s precise sentences, expertly translated by Higgins, elicit cinematic images and strong emotions. This poignant, fully realized debut shouldn’t be missed. Agent: Pierre Astier, Astier-Pécher Literary & Film Agency. (Apr.)