Friday, January 19, 2024

2024 in Books - Week Two

 Week two of January was busy. Plenty of performances to see at the ASSITEJ Winter Theatre Festival (if you have kids, the summer and winter festivals in Seoul are a great way to get a dose of very good theatre for children).

I was looking for something easy to read, something not too taxing and Richard Osman came to mind. I read the first two in his Thursday Murder Club series a couple of years ago and decided to catch up. 

So at the start of the week I plowed my way through The Bullet That Missed and The Last Devil to Die (books three and four). They were both a lot of fun. This is not the greatest literature ever written, but it is bloody good writing with solidly plotted stories, mysteries that whilst I could guess a few details still surprised me by the end, and a group of lovable pensioners and police officers (and one Polish ex-killer) that make you want to keep coming back.

Both books felt like the equivalent to Sunday night murder mysteries on telly when I was growing up in the UK. Nothing too taxing, but the perfect thing to doze off to and to make you forget about the worries of the upcoming week. If you like a good murder and you like cosy British humour, then it's well worth investing your time.

The rest of the week was a little bare when it came to books, until the weekend when I was forced to do my required reading for the guest spot I do every Wednesday morning on Arirang Radio.

First was The Consultant by Im Seong-sun, translated by An Seon Jae. It's a thriller about a man who plots assassinations for a living and the premise is fantastic. However, it's a touch too self absorbed and misogynistic for me. I don't think An Seon Jae's translation is at fault, more a case of a middle aged Korean man fantasizing about the criminal life he could have had and the sexy ladies who would have been around him. No-one really wants to read about how much porn the main character is watching, do they?

My final book of the week was much more rewarding - Selected Poems of Kim Sakkat, translated by Kevin O'Rourke. This is available online for free (I got my copy from Google Play) and contains several dozen poems of this nineteenth century itinerant Korean poet. 

To be honest, classical Korean poetry is fine, but it's not really my thing. At least it wasn't until I read this collection. Turns out the poetry snobs of the time weren't big fans, but Kim Sakkat got invited to a lot of parties to come and compose and recite poetry and with good reason. The selected poems are a mix of odes to nature, self reflection, sexual exploits, funny gags and more. There's even a poem about blow jobs, which I really wasn't expecting to be translated by an Irish Catholic Priest.

O'Rourke gives notes on context and meaning where needed and also occasionally gives alternate translations (the family friendly version and then the more adult one for example) and he's clearly not afraid to stay true to the feel of Kim Sakkat's original verse.

If you're put off the thought of Korean classical poetry because of how antiquated or formal it might be, then this is the perfect book to change your mind. 

That's it for this week. The third week of January is mostly looking like comic books, but that's not a bad thing...

No comments: