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Han Sorya and North Korean Literature: The Failure of Socialist Realism in the Dprk [Paperback]

Brian Reynolds Myers

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Book Description

January 1994 Cornell East Asia Series No. 69
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!"

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell Univ East Asia Program (January 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0939657694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0939657698
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,907,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating Nov. 2 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I was looking for a book which goes beyond the usual cliches about North Korea, so although I wasn't that interested in literature I bought this book. It provides a fascinating look at a North Korea that I hadn't known existed. We all tend to think that the personality cult kicked in right after 1945, but this book shows that it developed over time, with literary figures like Han Sorya playing a large role in developing what Myers calls the "iconography" of the personality cult. The book is also entertaining, since it describes the various factional struggles inside the literary scene. The analysis of Han's novels is very wittily done. After reading this book, I felt that I knew the North Korea of the forties and fifties.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not just for literary historians May 1 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This is really the only study of North Korean culture in English, but it is also indispensable for historians and political scientists. Myers' explanation of the DPRK's glorification of spontaneous impulses/rages etc goes a long way towards explaining that country's long list of idiotically self-defeating terrorist acts - from the ax murders at the DMZ to the Rangoon bombing.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Significant twenty years ago, but no more Jan. 26 2013
By Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This book was published two decades ago. Its claim (the failure of socialist realism in North Korea) has long been disproved. When the book was new, several academic reviewers pointed out it was pretty one-sided and assertive (e.g., Stephen Epstein and Yearn Hong Choi). Some of the purely factual information about Han Sorya is useful. But the evaluations/judgments of the man and his work are biased and sweeping. Tatiana Gabroussenko's _Soldiers on the Cultural Front_ (U of Hawaii P, 2010) is the most recent refutation and shows evidence that socialist realism was successful in North Korea.

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