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Three Generations [Hardcover]

Sang-seop Yom , Young-nan Yu


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Book Description

Jan. 1 2005

Three Generations charts the tensions in the Jo family in 1930s Japanese-occupied Seoul. Yom's keenly observant eye reveals family tensions with profound insight. His characters are so alive that if you cut the pages they might bleed. Delving deeply into each character's history and beliefs, he illuminates the diverse pressures and impulses driving each one. This Korean classic also brings forth the larger issues at hand, revealing Korea's situation under Japanese rule, the traditional Korean familial structure, political movements of the 1930s (both national and international), and the battle between the modern and the traditional. Touted as one of Korea's most important works of fiction, Three Generations gave birth to naturalism in Korean literature. Best representing the Seoul dialect of the time, Yom is celebrated for his contributions to the Korean literary cannon; Three Generations remains a mandatory read for high school students. The long-awaited publication of this masterpiece in English is a literary event.

Yom Sang-seop was born in 1897 in Seoul. In 1919, he participated in an independence movement against the Japanese, for which he was jailed. He published his first stories in the same year. In 1931, he published Samdae(Three Generations) as a serial in Chosun Ilbo, the Korean national daily, followed by many novels and stories. He died of cancer in 1963.

Translator Yu Young-nan's translations include Pak Wan-so's The Naked Tree(Columbia University Press, 1995), Yi In-hwa's Everlasting Empire (EastBridge 2001), Yi Mu-young's Farmers(Homa & Sekey, 2002), and Han Sung-won's Father and Son, co-translated by Julie Pickering (Homa & Sekey, 2002).


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 550 pages
  • Publisher: Archipelago Books (Jan. 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0974968005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0974968001
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 17.5 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 862 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,477,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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.

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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic work of Korean fiction following the tense dynamics of the Jo family July 5 2005
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Originally published in 1931 as a serial in "Chosun Ilbo", and fluently translated from the original Korean, Three Generations is 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. Author Yom Sang-seop was one of the few Korean writers of the era who remained true to his ideals and did not write in Japanese or write pro-Japanese articles. A highly recommended and welcome contribution to modern Asian literature shelves.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Real love is a secret, not something to brag about. Love is all about pain, not happiness." Dec 31 2009
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
(A star rating is not appropriate for this novel.) Described as a "masterpiece of Korean fiction of the twentieth century" and as "one of the outstanding literary achievements during Korea's colonial era," Three Generations, written in 1931, has recently been translated into English for the first time. Published in Seoul as a newspaper serial from January through August of that year, author Yom Sang-seop appeals to his Korean audience with his vibrant characters and his depiction of real life, especially as lived by traditional, middle-class Koreans. For western readers, Three Generations is a bit daunting, at first, and readers are urged to read the Afterword before starting the novel. The novel's unexplained references to the Japanese in Seoul at the beginning of the story, the fact that Deok-gi, the main character, has been studying at Kyoto Prep School and at a Tokyo college, the tensions between some young Koreans and Japanese at a bar, references to "the Third Empire," and the mysterious political activities of characters referred to as "young Marxists" become more understandable when seen in the context which the Afterword provides.

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
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Korean Novel July 17 2013
By J-whi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A classic of Korean Literature the story sets the stage for the Korean war. The characters form a wider representation of who the Communist North and Anti-Communist South Korea would attract, and where the battle lines in Korean society would be drawn. From the waning of traditional values to the pull of the future, this lengthy story gives insight into pre-war Korean culture.

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