Translated by Yu Young-nan
Introduction by Don Baker, University of
Winner of the 2002 Daesan
Foundation Prize for Outstanding Literary Translation!
“Beautifully written and riveting.... Aside from being
a thrilling mystery story, Everlasting Empire provides non-Korean readers with
a glimpse into Korea’s past. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to brush up on
their knowledge of Korean history or curl up with a good mystery book on a cold
“...the blur and exchange between dichotomies such
as dreams and reality, fiction and history, knowledge and ignorance, truth and
falsehood, past and present, existence and nonexistence, and, ultimately, what
is mutable and immutable is what makes Yi’s storytelling so compelling....
Having read both the English translation and Korean original, I was surprised
to find the translation—for which Ms. Yu won the Daesan Foundation prize—more
(Yongwonhan chekuk) is a Korean historical novel written as a murder mystery.
The narrator frames the main story with his “discovery” of a 150-year-old
manuscript. Because of problems
verifying the authenticity of the manuscript, the narrator offers the book not
as genuine history but as a story. This compelling tale is set at a pivotal
moment in Korean history, when the nation’s last strong king was attempting to
consolidate the authority of the monarchy against the dangerous encumbrance of
bureaucratic factional infighting and when Western ideas were beginning to
infiltrate Korea. It is an absorbing account of life at a Confucian court. The
original Korean edition (1993) was a bestseller in Korea, selling more than one
million copies. In was published in French translation (2000) and was made into
a feature length film which collected six prestigious Grand Bell Awards.
"[Yi In-hwa] has achieved a goal that eludes most authors of historical fiction: He
has created a tale so plausible that it can almost pass for the work of a
historian rather than a novelist. Even though the events that form the core of
his novel did not actually take place — they could have. This novel [is] more
than just a riveting work of fiction … it also … opens a window into the
turbulent world of Chosen dynasty politics, in which political disagreements
often had deadly consequences.
“. . .
Yi In-hwa has captured the rivalries, cruelty, and treachery on Chongjo’s Seoul
with a vividness equaled by few historical records or even historians’
reconstructions. If one of the goals of the study of history is, and I believe
it is, to open doors into the past so that we step back in time and experience
the world of our predecessors on this planet, Everlasting Empire is an effective door opener. I recommend it to
anyone who wants to experience political intrigue on the Korean peninsula two
Introduction by Don Baker
Yi In-hwa is the pen name of You Chul-gun, a professor of
Korean Language and Literature at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. He received
the first Writers’ World Literature Award for his novel Who Can Say What I Am? in 1992. He is also the recipient of the
Korean government’s 1995 Today’s Young Artist Award and the Chinese
government’s first Korea-China Youth scholarship award. In 2000, Yi received
the prestigious Yi Sang award for his short story “A Poet’s Star.”
Yu Young-nan has translated several Korean works into English,
including The Naked Tree, by Pak
Wan-so. Her translations of Yi Mu-yong’s “Lesson One, Chapter One” and Farmers received the Korean Modern
Literature Translation Award.
EastBridge Signature Books 2002 264 pp. glossary, chronology
ISBN 1-891936-02-6 (pb) $29.95
ISBN 1-891936-15-8 (hb) $49.95