North Station by Bae Suah, translated by Deborah Smith [in Library Journal]
One word describes Bae Suah’s latest: enigmatic. The seven stories that comprise her first translated-into-English collection (and her third collaboration with prolifically adroit British translator of choice Smith) are more fragments than linear narratives. In the opening “First Snow, First Sight,” unreliable memory between two people separated for eight years is dissected and reconstructed. “Owl” conflates books, stories, and dreams.
The title story features a couple longing to stop time to avoid parting. “The Non-Being of the Owl” is a meditation on death, while “Mouson” discusses travel and encounters along the way. Representation and identity are examined in “Dignified Kiss of Paris Streets,” the title of a photograph that in fact depicts the narrator’s respiratory system.
Even more than her novels (Recitation; A Greater Music), Bae’s short works demand deliberate attention as her words and sentences diverge, detour, elide, and suddenly (sometimes) resume an abandoned narrative path.
Verdict: Intrepid readers ready for a labyrinthine literary challenge – think Borges, Kafka, Faulkner – will enjoy deciphering Bae’s quizzical, uncommon stories.
Published: 2017 (United States)