Meeting with My Brother by Yi Mun-yol, translated by Heinz Insu Fenkl and Yoosup Chang [in Booklist]
“The Korean War displaced and fragmented more than ten million families,” writes Heinz Insu Fenkl in his introduction to his new translation of Yi’s novella about the first meeting between two adult brothers.
Yi, one of Korea’s most prominent literary figures, and his family were perilously victimized by the division of Korea. His father abandoned his mother and five young children to defect to the north in 1950, marking the family as guilty-by-communist-association targets. Yi learned of his father’s fate in the mid-1980s: 30 years in prison camps, a second wife, five more children.
Yi expands on his own history through a fictional alter ego who travels from Seoul to the Chinese-North Korean border to meet the eldest North Korean son of his late father. Their shared parentage contrasts sharply with their divergent experiences on either side of the DMZ.
Originally published in 1994 in Korea and translated in 2002 by Suh Ji-moon as An Appointment with My Brother, this edition is the propitious result of Fenkl and Yoosup Chang’s direct work with Yi and includes an additional scene. At less than 100 pages, Meeting with My Brother might seem spare, but Yi’s exploration of identity, family, citizenship, and nationhood is urgently profound and deeply compelling.
Published: 1994 (Korea), 2017 (United States)