Posted on

A Review of Three Generations from John Feffer in The Nation — "excerpt from Writers From the Other Asia"


In the 1930s, too, Yom Sang-seop published what is considered one of the masterpieces of early modern Korean fiction, Three Generations, which recently appeared in a new translation by Yu Young-nan. Far from describing the atrocities of Japanese rule, Yom’s novel depicts a stultified society in which the old depart from Confucian values and the young cannot build a new world for themselves. Several characters engage in an almost halfhearted conspiracy against the colonial authorities and inevitably fail. A father who fails to honor his ancestors or set a proper example for his son is brought low by his misdeeds. Characters speak to one another with a bluntness that seems awkward when set against, for instance, the Japanese aesthetic of indirection. The structure of the novel is uneven, the prose unremarkable. Nevertheless, in its way, Three Generations successfully portrays a society throttled by the “modernization” that Japan inflicted upon the peninsula. This delayed development, as much as the more violent policies of the era, constituted the tragedy of the colonial experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *