The Old Garden
Translated by Jay Oh
Political prisoner Hyun Woo is freed after eighteen years to find no trace of the world he knew. The friends with whom he shared utopianist dreams are gone. His Seoul is unrecognizably transformed and aggressively modernized. Yoon Hee, the woman he loved, died three years ago. A broken man, he drifts toward a small house in Kalmoe, where he and Yoon Hee once stole a few fleeting months of happiness while fleeing the authorities. In the company of her diaries, he relives and reviews his life, trying to find meaning in the revolutionary struggle that consumed their youth—a youth of great energy and optimism, victim to implacable history.
Hyun Woo weighs the worth of his own life, spent in prison, and that of the strong-willed artist Yoon Hee, whose involvement in rebel groups took her to Berlin and the fall of the wall. With great poignancy, Hwang Sok-yong grapples with the immortal questions—the endurance of love, the price of a commitment to causes—while depicting a generation that sacrificed youth, liberty, and often life, for the dream of a better tomorrow.
"Hwang Sok-yong is undoubtedly the most powerful voice of the novel in East Asia."—Nobel laureate Kenzaburō Ōe
"The Old Garden vividly depicts the tumult of Korean history and the individuals caught in its demands. Hwang Sok-yong, one of South Korea's most important modern writers, poignantly shows us that history is also a story of how individuals live, love, and sacrifice in the tumult of time."—Krys Lee, author of Drifting House
"Hwang Sok-yong has given contemporary world literature a beautiful gift. Written in a voice that is utterly humanistic, The Old Garden combines multiple narratives that resonate on the levels of the historical, political, and aesthetic. Hwang's masterful command of the novelistic form is evident in his ability to be simultaneously intimate and worldly. Without a doubt, The Old Garden will be seen as the definitive novel of Korea's Gwangju generation."—Jeff Shroeder, guitarist for the Smashing Pumpkins and English PhD candidate at UCLA
"Hwang Sok-yong is the most committed, politically active writer of all those who have been translated from the Korean in recent years."—Liberation
"Hwang Sok-yong is one of South Korea's preeminent authors."—Der Spiegel