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The Poet Paperback – June 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 221 pages
  • Publisher: Random House UK (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860468969
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860468964
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,662,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The first novel by leading South Korean writer Yi Mun-yol to be published in the West in English, this moving, luminous story is based on the life of Kim Pyong-yon (1807-1863), a bamboo-hatted vagabond poet. Though born to an upper-class Seoul family, Kim was forced to live as an outcast as punishment for a perceived transgression that acquired the weight of original sin. When he is four, his politically influential grandfather surrenders to a rebel peasant army only to be recaptured by government troops, branded a traitor and executed. Fearing a similar fate, Kim's parents go into hiding, and the boy spends the next four years on his own, wandering, until he is reunited with his family, now ostracized as the relatives of a traitor. Striving to regain lost status, Kim aspires to be a gentleman-scholar, becoming a popular entertainer amusing the gentry with his lyrics. Later, as a populist bard, he writes revolutionary songs and poems that celebrate his sexual trysts with low-class women and mock venal nobles, exploitive landlords and bogus scholars. Finally, as a Taoist poet at one with nature and gifted with supernatural powers, Kim rejects his own son's pleas to return to the wife he abandoned. First published in Korean in 1992, this novel, despite an occasionally stiff translation, succeeds brilliantly both as fictionalized biography and as an inspirational parable about the artist's struggle to survive.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In his first English translation, leading South Korean writer Yi Mun-yol considers historic, 19th-century itinerant poet Kim Pyong-yon. After Kim's grandfather defects to rebels during the insurrection of 1811, his family to three generations is condemned. Kim's parents hide their sons, who with their mother survive but bear the label of traitor. As he matures, Kim discovers a skill for poetry and a spirit profoundly affected by familial disgrace. Moved by deeply influential but casually encountered people, Kim spends his early adulthood currying favor with the wealthy, then turns sharply toward solidarity with the poor and powerless as he rethinks his grandfather's actions. Eventually he falls in with brigands, re-encounters his greatest early influence, and is nearly brought home by his son. This probing, fictionalized biography reads more like nonfiction than fiction, with its straightforward, informative style and its historical tangents. This engrossing, unusual choice for literate Westerners is recommended for larger public libraries.?Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Bickel on December 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Poetry is the highest level of language subtlety and complexity. It takes work to comprehend and understand. Korean poetry in translation is next to impossible to access, grasp, or appreciate, especially for readers steeped in Western traditions. Fortunately, this novel is not so much about poetry, even though some very nice explanations abound; it is about the poet. When a tradition mandates that the political miscalculations of a person must be visited upon the `third and fourth generation' by society, most Westerners are unable to grasp the gravity and finality of such social behavior. Their ideology of individualism cannot comprehend such group power. Yi Mun-yol, and his translator, Chong-Wha Chung, bridge some of these cultural divides by simply looking at the poetry we call life. Thus, we are all poets, and when the suffering poet, Kim, of this novel wanders into the countryside, we walk with him. Life can be cold and cruel, full of inner turmoil and pain. Our lives may be different, but many of the elements of life's poetry are universal. We live in times that are harried and hurried. If there is a need to pause and reflect, contemplate and feed the soul, walking with Yi Mun-yol's THE POET may provide some food for thought.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "namsy" on February 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
this story is about family, art and history. the poet's self-exiled journey is still too realistic for many koreans even today. the ideology that an individual cannot be freed from, distorts individual life into empty cynicism and self-hatred, especially in the circle of "artists." the traditional connection of writers with intellectuals, and intellectuals with conscience, is in the root of (in)famous debates between "pure literature" and "engagement." the writer suffers in the middle, but still he has to deal with his family history first. anyway, it turns out to be not so different from the collective history, in terms that it situates the weak and (maybe therefore) suffering conscience of today. and lastly, the poet was nothing but the prisoner of his poems (language).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lee, Ji-hyung on August 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I chanced to find this book at London when I was traveling there, and was very happy to find it on the shelve though it was placed too deep to find it out. Anyway, it really reminded me the discrepancy between what we believe right and what really happened several centuries ago. We are still believing that any forms of discrimination no matter what color we are, wher we live, how much we earn. But discrimination was there where the story goes. This book does not only mirror the emotional flows of Kim Sat-kat, but tries to argue about the twisted social structure. And this attempt beautifully melted into the poem, Korean traditional 4 line poem which Kim wrote.
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