Waxen Wings: The Acta Korean Anthology of Short Fiction from Korea, edited by Bruce Fulton, is a breakthrough in the translation and publishing of Korean short stories into English. It is the first collection of such stories that I have read in which it seemed that the criteria for choosing works included an analysis of whether or not the works would be enjoyable and comprehensible to Western readers who have little innate understanding of Korea or its culture. The beauty of choosing such stories is that they will draw readers in and, with sugar and not medicine, introduce them to Korean culture in general.
Waxen Wings contains nine excellent stories glossing the three eras of Korean modern fiction (Colonial, Post Civil War, and the as yet unnamed third era beginning in the 1990s or so). The stories range from the ecstatic (Yi Hye-seok's "In the Mountains") to the poignant (Hong Seong-nan's title story, "Waxen Wings"). The authors included are some of the key authors of their eras and these works represent them ably. The translations are uniformly excellent and the introduction and concluding author's bibliography by editor Bruce Fulton are worth the price of the book alone.
Because the publisher have inexplicably not included a TOC page on Amazon, I list the stories and authors here:
"In The Mountains," by Yi Hyoseok
"Constable Maeng" by Ch'ae Manshik
"Weaver Woman" by Oh Cheong-hui
"We Sell Shame" by Park Wan-so (romanizations vary wildly)
"Prison of the Heart" by Kim Won-il
"The Pager" by Kim Young-ha
"Waxen Wings" by Ha Seong-nan
"Corpses," by Pyeon Hye-yeong
"The Glass Shield" by Kim Chung-yeok
This is a fun book to read and there are very few volumes of translated Korean literature about which that can be said. Fulton should be praised for going outside of the canon for themes, even if he did rely upon familiar authors in the first few stories. In addition, I think these are all NEW translations and so Fulton avoids the ongoing problem of re-presenting stories considered canonical within Korean culture. In the past, when asked what to recommend for beginners at Korean literature I have, with some reservations, recommended Land of Exile, or Modern Korean Fiction: An Anthology, sometimes even suggesting a complete reading of the KLTI/Jimoondang Korean Library of Translated Literature.
All of these are noble collections and good works, but Waxen Wings immediately replaces them as THE introduction to Korean translated literature.
A fuller review of this book (nearly 2000 words) can be found at: [...]