This first and only study of North Korean literary history by a Western scholar deals with the crucial role played by Han Sôrya, chairman of the D.P.R.K.'s Federation of Literature and Art from 1948 to his purge in 1962, both in devising the iconography of Kim Il Sung's personality cult and in defining the early course of North Korean letters. Through brief studies of Han's own canonical works the author also sets out to dispel the widely-held assumption that North Korean literature is compatible with Soviet and Chinese socialist realism. The appendix includes a complete translation of Han's 1951 novella Jackals (Sûngnyangi).
The cartoon on the book cover, which is taken from the New Year's issue of North Korea's Munhak Sinmun in 1958, depicts the most prominent members of the Pyongyang literary scene at the time. Han Sôrya is on the far left, showing the bespectacled Yi Kiyông and other colleagues the way. The banner reads: "For the new creative enhancement of our literature!"