Monday, December 26, 2016

The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea by Bandi

THE ACCUSATION is amazing, and not because of the stories it contains. According to the afterword, it is a historical first: no other book criticizing North Korea has been published by a North Korean who still lives in North Korea. Apparently, his/her 750 page handwritten manuscript was smuggled out and published in South Korea. So keep that in mind, while reading.

Most of these stories have a unifying theme: they're often written by someone who is doing their best to fit into the Party, only to discover its flaws when someone they care about is impacted by the very rules that they have helped to keep in place.

My favorite story in this collection was Record of a Defection, which is a beautiful story about how far we go for our loved ones, and how far they go for us - often without speaking a single word.

I also really enjoyed Life of a Swift Steed, a story heavy with symbolism, about an old man with an elm tree in his yard. The tree is the symbol of his many years of hard work and toiling efforts for the Party he thought would save him, and ends up being a symbol of his disappointment and disillusionment instead. It's incredibly powerful and utterly tragic.

Other stories that I liked were City of Specters and So Near, Yet So Far.

Pandemonium, On Stage, and The Red Mushroom were also decent, but I didn't like them as much as some of the other stories in this collection, as they felt more confusing and difficult to follow, although Red Mushroom ends with a bang that really ends the collection in a relevant way.

If you don't know much about North Korea, or you really like short stories, or you're fascinated by politics and history, you should grab a copy of this when you can. The translator did an excellent job and the writing is utterly beautiful and movingly powerful. Make sure you check out the poem in the beginning and the afterword, too! They're both well-worth the read!

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

4 out of 5 stars

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