A PEN Translates Award-winning collection of short stories about life in North Korea under Kim Jong-Il, written in secret by a dissident author.
The Accusation is a revelatory work of fiction that exposes the truth of the North Korean regime. Set during the period of Kim Jong-Il’s leadership, the seven stories that make up The Accusation throw light on different aspects of life in this most bizarre and horrifying of dictatorships.
One story, “Life of a Swift Seed,” tells of a war hero and former ardent Communist who plants an elm tree in his back garden to commemorate one of his brothers-in-arms. When the tree is to be cut down to make way for a power line, the man is ready to defend it with his life, leaving a family friend to decide whether to intercede. In another story, “City of Specters,” a Pyongyang mother’s young son misbehaves during a party rally, crying out when he sees a portrait of Karl Marx, whom he thinks is a monster of Korean myth known as the Eobi. In one other story, a mother attempts to feed her husband during the worst years of North Korea’s famine, and in another, a woman in a perilous situation meets the Dear Leader himself.
As a whole, The Accusation is a vivid and frightening portrait of what it means to live in a completely closed-off society, and a heartbreaking yet hopeful portrayal of the humanity that persists even in such dire circumstances.
“Searing fiction by an anonymous dissident . . . A fierce indictment of life in the totalitarian North.”—New York Times
In this enthralling headscratcher of a first novel, Unferth (the story collection Minor Robberies) weaves an intricate tale of quests and escapes, of leaving and following. As a child, Myers falls out of a window, shattering his skull and unknowingly living the rest of his life with a misshapen head. Years later, he follows his wife, who spends her evenings following a man she doesn't know. The man, whom Myers identifies as a former classmate of his named Gray, is unaware that he is being doubly tracked. The marriages of both men fall apart, and Myers finds himself on "vacation," traveling in search of Gray while Gray's ex-wife and daughter look for him, too. The problem is that "Gray does not know where Gray is." If this all sounds puzzling, it is; still, with grace and skill, Unferth manages to weave together the most far-fetched of events. A subplot involving a dolphin "untrainer" and a woman in search of her birth father is distracting, and Unferth's wordplay can verge on the excessive, but a poignancy emerges in spite of Unferth's post-modern indulgences.