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Hwang Sok-young attends Booker Prize reading event in London

Hwang Sok-young attends Booker Prize reading event in London

Posted May. 20, 2024 07:50,   

Updated May. 20, 2024 07:50


“I plan to write three more books,” said novelist Hwang Sok-young at the reading of the final candidates for the Booker Prize International category held at Southbank Center in London, England, on Saturday (local time). The audience burst into laughter and applause when the 81-year-old novelist said, “I’m still perfectly fine. I’m in this state because the bathroom was slippery this morning.”

Hwang is a finalist in the International Category for the British Booker Prize with the novel ‘Mater 2-10,’ which was published in 2020. The Booker Prize is considered one of the world's three major literary awards, along with the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Prix Goncourt. Six works, including Hwang’s novel, were shortlisted for the Booker Prize International Category ‘Mater 2-10’ is a novel that spans modern and contemporary history from the Japanese colonial period to the present through stories on a family of railroad workers. Previously, author Hwang departed for England on Thursday ahead of the announcement of the Booker Prize International category winner.

At the reading, Hwang read an excerpt from the novel and explained the background of how he wrote it. “It all began when I met a former railroad engineer from Yeongdeungpo, Seoul, during my visit to North Korea in 1989,” said Hwang, who spent his childhood in Yeongdeungpo. “The railroad engineer and I talked about our childhood back then, sharing memories such as the time when a fire occurred in the wooden school building, recalling details such as the burning bathroom and the smell of smoke that filled the neighborhood.

Both authors and translators are nominated in the Booker Prize International Category, with the prize money of 50,000 pounds (approximately 85 million won) being split equally. Translators Sora Kim Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae joined Hwang on the stage at the reading.

A long queue formed by readers at the autograph session followed the reading to get Hwang’s autograph. “Hwang’s queue to buy books and get autographs was the longest,” said a staff member from Changbi, the publisher. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony held in London on Tuesday.

Won-Mo Yu onemore@donga.com