It’s only natural to expect people in the U.S. to be fascinated by — and a little wary of — news out of North Korea. The Hermit Kingdom has become our new boogeyman, replacing China and Russia as the focus of our Red Scare. But given the United States’ near-total lack of communication with the other country, the bulk of our narratives about North Korea come from outsiders, from imaginative novelists and traveling teachers, or from defectors who have successfully found asylum elsewhere. All of this warrants saying, because all of this is necessary for readers to understand just how unique The Accusation, the first foreign-published book by a North Korean author living in North Korea — in this case, Bandi — is. There’s no other short-story collection like it in the world.
If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I’m a sucker for anything related to the Hermit Kingdom, and The Accusation is no exception. Hearing that Bandi’s short-story collection would be available in English was like an early holiday gift. And, even in spite of my anticipation and expectations, the book does not disappoint.
In The Accusation, you’ll find a number of brief glimpses into the lives of everyday North Koreans. Here are Party members falling from favor. Over there, someone balks at deference to the Great Leader when faced with the loss of a dear family member. Behind you, a man tries to save the one thing that’s truly his in the world.
Bandi’s stories wear their authenticity on their sleeves, to the extent that each of them could be a true story from one of the author’s acquaintances. If you’re going to read any book about North Korea this year, make sure it’s The Accusation.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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Image credit: (stephan)