Three Generations Hardcover – Jan 1 2005
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A classic work of Korean fiction following the tense dynamics of the Jo family in 1930s Japanese-occupied Seoul. Skillfully describing traditional Korean family structure, and vividly portraying the effects of Japanese rule, Three Generations presents a fierce battle between modern and traditional elements, as well as a chilling portrayal of the ruthlessness with which a colonial power imposed its will upon those under its control. Midwest Book Review One of the most important masterpieces of Korean fiction. —Kyoto Journal
Vividly capturing the cultural, moral, and political complexities of the Japanese colonial period through the urban microcosms of bars, stores, noodle shops, streets crowded with trolleys and rickshaws, and centuries-old mansions. —Bookforum
The novel, filled with gossip and family intrigue as scandalous as any contemporary soap opera, reads deliciously like a Dostoevsky novel or Les Liaisons Dangereuses meets Korea’s traditional middle class. —KoreAm
With its complex plot and huge cast of characters, Three Generations evokes not only Korean culture at a critical juncture in its history, but the strength and pleasures of its literature. —Moorish Girl
While valuable to its originating nation as a document of the political and social times, the real meat of this novel is the timeless conflict and confluence among strong personalities born into differing social strata. When rendered with understanding and humor, as this is, it makes for a ripping read. —Bookslut --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
One of the most important writers in Korea. Seoul Culture Award (1953), Asia Freedom Literature Award (1956), National Academy of Arts' Contribution Award (1957), March 1st Culture Award (1962), Korean President's medal (1962). Jailed for his involvement in the independence movement.See all Product Description
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The novel traces three generations of one family--the Jo family--consisting of a grandfather who is the family patriarch, his middle-aged son Sang-hun (and his wife), and Sang-hun's 23-year-old son Deok-gi (and his wife and baby), the character around whom most of the action revolves. The family lives in Seoul in a large traditional house with inner and outer quarters, separate living areas for the several families, and spaces for the family's servants. The grandfather, who governs the family purse strings, has recently married a manipulative, much younger woman by whom he has a child, and the new wife expects to inherit a major share of his fortune. Sang-hun, the patriarch's son, is a gambler and ne'er-do-well, and has had a lover by whom he has a young child whom he does not see or adequately support. He needs money to pay off debts. The fact that his son Deok-gi, the patriarch's grandson, is widely regarded as the likely heir to most of the grandfather's money adds to the intrafamily hostilities.
As Deok-gi travels around the city, his relationships with many other characters show how traditional society is being challenged. Resentments against the Japanese, the embracing of Marxism by college age students, infiltration of the country by communists from Russia, and turmoil in neighboring China create serious challenges to existing society. A strong police force with no scruples about the indiscriminate use of torture, even on women, acts quickly at even the slightest hint of provocation.
The author tends to keep his separate plots running on separate tracks, not integrating them as fully as modern novels do, but he manages to make the novel interesting and relatively fast-moving. The intricate manipulations within the Jo family keep the complicated lives of its members challenging and absorbing. Though the Afterword points out that author Yom Sang-seop was famous in his era for using the often crude vernacular of his characters, some western readers may find the use of contemporary, twenty-first century slang quite jarring. Calling a character from 1931 a "wisea$$," or a "piece of work," and referring to actions such as "talking sh_t," "wising up," and even "chipping in," feel out-of-place in a work which is otherwise presented in formal language. Mary Whipple