• Book
  • English(English)


  • Author
  • Country
    Republic of Korea
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  • Genre
    Literature - Korean literature - Contemporary fiction



    Title: Double - Side A / Double - Side B

    Author: Park Min-gyu

    Genre: Literature / Short Story Collection (9 stories)


    LTI Korea staff: Alex Baek ( / +82-2-6919-7733)


  • About the book

    Park Min-gyu’s second collection of short stories, Double, contains in two volumes eighteen of the twenty-four short stories written after the publication of his first short story collection, Castella. For this new short story collection, his fans waited no fewer than five years. In the author’s preface, Park Min-gyu explains the reason it took him so long to put together the two volumes of Double: “his nostalgia for double LP records in the vinyl age.” Indeed, the collection is divided into sides A and B, instead of volumes one and two, and is accompanied with a book of illustrations that resembles a booklet one would find inside an LP record. Presented in the form of an LP record, Double is a truly special gift. The author describes it as “a tribute to all the double LP records that guided [him] in [his] youth and a small celebration of the sensibilities of the vinyl age that was at once immense, grave and fabulous.”


    In Double, the reader finds Park Min-gyu’s usual literary flair and strengths epitomised in a single collection. The author has been widely praised for his marginal sensibilities, extraordinary imagination and inimitable style. However, as evident in the eighteen short stories in the collection, his literary world is far wider and deeper than expected.


    The first story in Side A, “Close,” (winner of the 2009 Hwang Soon-won Literary Award) features a terminally ill, unmarried man who returns to his hometown and reunites with his childhood friends as a way of preparing for his departure from this world. The calm narrative voice as he reflects upon life and death is deeply touching, and creates lingering resonance. In the author’s own words, “Close” is very much like “a sketch of a plaster model.” In “Boat on Yellow River,” (winner of the 2007 Yi Hyo-seok Literary Award), an elderly retiree takes his wife who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s on one last trip before killing themselves. The story offers a new insight into the meaning of life. Set in a retirement home, “Siesta” offers a delicate exploration of love and remorse in old age, which comes as a surprise to anyone who only expected to find wit and humour in Park’s writing. These works prove that, Park Min-gyu, known as he is for the unconventional and ingenious, is highly capable of creating realistic descriptions and lyrical ambience by being faithful to the basic skills of fiction writing.


    There are other completely different types of stories in Double. In “Deep,” a scientific expedition sent down to the ocean in the distant future reminds us of the depths of human existence. The short story “Croman, Un,” set in “other universes” existing in unspecified times and places, is a brilliant work of sci-fi fiction in its own right. The story gives rise to philosophical speculations, and leaves a lasting impression. Interestingly, in “Did the Maker of Lambs Make You Too?,” “Rudy,” and “You Gonna Keep This Up?” the reader detects an almost anti-human and apocalyptic view of the world pushed further by the author’s hard-boiled style. Furthermore, Park Min-gyu presents an exquisite mix of the martial arts fantasy genre and sharp satires of reality. In “Goodbye, Zeppelin,” a young man chases after a truant advertising blimp across the city. The pathetic yet humorous story of a down-on-his-luck salesman who ends up going all the way to Mars to close a deal in “A Dildo Saved My Family” echoes the sentiments of “Staying at Gab-eul Goshiwon” and “Is That So? I'm a Giraffe” in Castella.


    As such, the short stories in Double vary so much in terms of their subject matters and literary styles that one may even wonder if they were written by the same author. In fact, Park Min-gyu’s fans tend to have strong likes and dislikes when it comes to the sheer variety of literary skills in his works. Some prefer works firmly rooted in reality, while others appreciate stories infused with fantasy. Nonetheless, Double soon makes clear that the entire literary spectrum is already inherent in Park Min-gyu’s writing, and therefore any attempt to classify his stories into specific categories is rendered utterly meaningless. Upon closer inspection, the reader discovers that in each story, Park Min-gyu carefully blends various elements to complete his exceptional narrative structure and unique language. For example, even in “Close,” which is perhaps most realistic story in the collection, the author introduces fantastical settings at times in order to highlight the overall message. The more fanciful stories like “Aspirin,” in which a gigantic tablet of aspirin appears in the sky over Seoul one day, remain closely attached to reality. Park Min-gyu embraces reality and imagination as well as authenticity and abnormality, and freely makes use of all these elements in the right places.


    In the heart of Park’s literary world are his unique sentences. Since his literary debut, the originality of his sentences has continued to draw much attention. The author’s apt use of visual devices such as line breaks and blank spaces heightens emotional effects. In addition, his almost poetry-like sentences stir our imagination through a number of constantly expanding analogies. Park Min-gyu’s writing style never ceases to amaze us. Such sentence is used to their full extent throughout these short stories that are so different from one another. They sometimes convey ardent love of humanity, sometimes express worldwide pessimism, or sometimes even evoke irrepressible laughter.


    Above all, what makes Park Min-gyu problematic is his powerful and unique imagination that challenges the contemporary Korean literary world suffering from a serious lack of imagination. In the book’s introduction, the author himself claims that he “absorbs, splits, and propagates.” In other words, in the face of Park Min-gyu’s imagination that takes such unpredictable leaps via self-development and mutation, artificial boundaries between the so-called mainstream literature and genre fiction or between high culture and low culture become inconsequential. More importantly, any distinction between reality and fantasy and between laughter and tears loses all meaning. Park Min-gyu, with his tireless imagination, writes persistently and daringly. A true masterpiece, Double carries the essence of his literary world and satisfies all our expectations. 

    About the author

    In one media survey conducted in 2010, Park Min-gyu was voted “the greatest novelist of the 2000s as selected by sixty-eight literary critics,” and anyone familiar with his works would readily agree with this assessment. Park Min-gyu was born in 1968 in Ulsan, Korea, and graduated from the Department of Creative Writing at Chung-Ang University. In 2003, he made his literary debut with the publication of Legend of Earth’s Superheroes and The Sammi Superstars' Last Fan Club, which earned him the Munhakdongne New Writer’s Award and the Hankyoreh Literary Award respectively. Thereafter, his works have drawn much acclaim and enthusiastic praise from both critics and general readers alike. He has won many prestigious literary accolades including the Yi Hyo-seok Literary Award, the Hwang Sun-won Literary Award, and the Yi Sang Literary Award, thereby successfully establishing himself as a key literary icon for the new trends in Korean fiction since the start of the new millennium.


    In the midst of their self-imposed minority status, characters in The Sammi Superstars' Last Fan Club find new values and happiness. In the short story collection Castella, fantastical creatures like aliens and sunfish are presented alongside the author’s careful examination of reality. The outsiders shunned and forgotten by the society in Ping Pong are mobilised for the purpose of tearing down the world plagued with hidden violence and injustice. The novel Pavane for a Dead Princess overturns our traditional notions of love stories in a truly unique way. Indeed, in each of his works, Park’s extraordinary imagination never fails to surpass all our expectations.

    Media Response/Awards Received

    In Double, the reader finds the author’s usual literary flair and strengths epitomised in a single collection. Park Min-gyu is the kind of author who, sometimes like a mixed martial arts fighter and sometimes like a professional wrestler, embraces reality and imagination as well as authenticity and abnormality. He freely makes use of all these elements in the right places.

     – The Kookmin Ilbo


    Double could be best described as a gift package that fully illustrates Park Min-gyu’s ever- expanding literary world. This new short story collection from Park offers everything from genre fiction writing, witty (almost comedic) narratives, unique imagination that twists and transforms well-known icons of pop culture, lending voice and empathy to socially disadvantaged groups, and ontological reflection upon the tragedy of life’s finiteness.

     – The Chosun Ilbo


    The eighteen short stories included in this collection show how Park Min-gyu has transformed and progressed as an author over the past five years. At the same time, in all of them the reader finds that the author’s “special something” remains unchanged after all this time. What brings the diverse, seemingly disconnected stories together is the author’s profound exploration of life.

    The Kyunghyang Shinmun


    As evident in his debut work, The Sammi Superstars' Last Fan Club, Park Min-gyu is mainly concerned with social minorities. The way he portrays them with sympathy and wit has impressed many critics and readers. In this new collection, the author’s sympathetic gaze becomes deeper and penetrates into the fundamental shabbiness of life.

    The Segye Ilbo


    In addition to the author’s formidable imagination, the reader finds a sympathetic gaze towards social minorities such as the elderly, youths in difficult circumstances, and employees in temp jobs. This is the essence of Park Min-gyu’s fiction. Even in the stories that resemble the martial arts fantasy genre or science fiction, a sympathetic gaze toward the weak lies underneath their generic frames.

    The Hankyoreh Shinmun


    Yi Hyo-seok Literary Award (2007) for “A Boat on a Yellow River”

    Hwang Sun-won Literary Award (2009) for “Close”

    Yi Sang Literary Award (2010) for “Into the Morning”

Translated Books (23)

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