Oh, how I loved this. It’s not often that a story collection will grab my attention from the beginning and keep it throughout. But, for me, there isn’t a weak link among the ten stories in Cursed Bunny.
Bora Chung’s stories in this book are often strange, often creepy, always compelling. The title story concerns a family who make cursed objects. The grandfather tells his grandson how he broke the rules and cursed an object for personal use: a bunny-shaped lamp designed to wreak revenge on the company that destroyed his friend’s family business. Rabbits chew their way through the company’s paperwork, but they don’t stop there – and the tale takes some unexpected and horrific turns.
Some of Chung’s stories are built around powerful metaphors. In ‘The Embodiment’, a woman finds that her period won’t stop. She takes birth control pills for several months, to no avail – in fact, they make her pregnant. The doctors tell her that she must find someone to be the child’s father, or things will go badly for her. Societal pressures around motherhood and relationships are transformed into vivid narrative strokes that raise the protagonist’s predicament to a higher pitch of intensity.
There are entries in Cursed Bunny that read like fairy tales, though with Chung’s distinctive stamp. ‘Snare’ begins with a man coming across a trapped fox that bleeds liquid gold. He becomes rich from this, but eventually bleeds the fox to death. The man has the fox’s fur made into a scarf for his wife, who then falls pregnant. The man finds a way to obtain gold from his children, but at a terrible cost. This is a sharp parable of greed.
What really makes Cursed Bunny hang together for me is the voice. Anton Hur’s translation from Korean is beguiling, as it persuades the reader that all of this could happen. Bora Chung goes on to my list of must-read authors.
Published by Honford Star, a small press specialising in books from East Asia.
Read my other posts on the 2022 International Booker Prize here.
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated from Korean by Anton Hur (Honford Star)
After the Sun by Jonas Eika, translated from Danish by Sherilyn Hellberg (Lolli Editions)
A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated from Norwegian by Damion Searls (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman, translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen (Jonathan Cape)
The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman, translated from French by Leslie Camhi (Virago)
Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, translated from Japanese by Samuel Bett and David Boyd (Picador)
Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park, translated from Korean by Anton Hur (Tilted Axis Press)
Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, translated from Indonesian by Tiffany Tsao (Tilted Axis Press)
Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated from Spanish by Frances Riddle (Charco Press)
Phenotypes by Paulo Scott, translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn (And Other Stories)
Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell (Tilted Axis Press)
The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from Polish by Jennifer Croft (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Tony has posted the Shadow Panel’s response on his blog, so I won’t say too much more myself. But, if you think back to the last time David Grossman was longlisted for this prize, five years ago, that was a very different longlist: mostly European, five titles from Penguin Random House imprints. This year, most of the authors are from outside of Europe, and two small publishers (Fitzcarraldo and Tilted Axis) make up almost half of the nominated books. I’m really pleased by that change.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reading and reviewing what I can from the longlist, along with the rest of the Shadow Panel. To date, I have read four from the longlist but reviewed only one – and it will take a very special book to dislodge Elena Knows as my favourite. Still, this is all about discovering good books, so let’s go for it.
The longlist for this year’s International Booker Prize will be announced on Thursday, so it’s time to convene the Shadow Panel once again. As always, we will be reading and reviewing the books, coming to our own conclusions, then choosing a shadow shortlist and winner – which may, or may not, reflect the ‘official’ ones.
For now, let me introduce you to the members of this year’s Shadow Panel…