Shadow of Arms
by Hwang-Sok Yong, translated by Chun Kyung-Ja
Available from Seven Stories Press
A novel of the black markets of the South Vietnamese city of Danang during the Vietnam War, based on the author’s experiences as a self-described South Korean mercenary on the side of the South Vietnamese, this is a Vietnam War novel like no other, truly one that sees the war from all sides. Scenes of battle are breathtakingly well told. The plot is thick with intrigue and complex subplots. But ultimately The Shadow of Arms is a novel of the human condition rather than of the exploits and losses of one side or the other in war.
The recipient of Korea's highest literary prizes, Hwang Sok-Yong is the author of nine works of fiction and has been published in six languages. His work, which grapples with the troubled history of his divided country, has been the cause of his imprisonment, his exile, and the rare achievement of a wide international readership. His novels in English include The Old Garden, a tragic love story set against the backdrop of the end of the Cold War and South Korea's political revolution of the eighties, and The Guest, based on the true account of a violent clash between Communist and Christian neighbors in a Korean village during the Korean War. His most recent bestsellers in Korea, where Hwang Sok-yong is arguably that country's most popular and widely read writers, include Baridegi (Princess Bari) and Gaebapbaragibyeol (The Evening Star), a coming-of-age novel that Hwang Sok-yong wrote as a blog.