Book Reviews 

Peace Under Heaven by Ch'ae Man-sik translated by 
Chun Kyung-ja. New York: M.E. Sharpe. 1993.250pp 

Peace Under Heaven is the most representative work of fiction linking the marketplace folk humor of late Choson with modern twentieth-century prose. Its originality is stunning, so rare is it to find writing of this kind at the time. It is fully evolved fiction that reflects literary influences of the traditional Korean past and the more cosmopolitan present. 

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Peace Under Heaven is an unparalleled early example of the Korean carnivalesque dialogic novel, it is both deeply traditional and ingeniously original. We are greatly indebted to Ch'ae for writing a novel that so clearly reveals the enduring folk literary traditions in modern Korean fiction. 
Chun Kyung-ja deserves enormous credit for her careful translation. Anyone familiar with the original Korean text is aware of the daunting challenges it presents. As we have seen, the success of this novel is in great measure due to linguistic elements embedded in the narrative itself. The highly evocative dialog often presented in dialect flatly defies successful translation. The natural verbosity peculiar to speakers of the Cholla dialect, the incessant pounding of the staccato rhythms in Ch'ae's narrative, the almost physically palpable shouts and cries that emanate from the rooms of Yun's cavernous estate must all, in the process of translation, either be dispensed with entirely or appear in greatly altered form. Thus the translated version necessarily exhibits a decidedly different texture from that of the original. 
Chun could have chosen any number of important works highly worthy of her excellent translation skills. Most would certainly have posed far less challenge and risk and in addition would have consumed much less of her time. But Chun clearly understood the value of this work and the importance of rendering it into English. The English text is idiomatic and fluid, without even the suggestion of an awkward phrase to betray the  
difficulties inherent in an ambitious translation effort of this kind. It is also gratifying to see how carefully Chun observes the narrative boundaries of the original to largely preserve the distinctive feature of the intimate, interactive storyteller. The translated text is prefaced with an informative introduction by Carter Eckert. 

Paul La Selle 
Korean Studies Volume 20 1996 by University of Hawaii

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This translation of a pre-World War II Korean novel offers a treasure trove of satire and social criticism of life in Korea under Japanese colonial rule. 
Peopled with characters whose derelict values, personal foibles and eccentricities dance between outrage and mirth, Peace Under Heaven turns the world of pre-war Korea upside down. 
In doing so, it pierces the veil of nostalgia and victimization characteristic of most narratives of life under Japanese rule in Korea. Set in 1937, the novel offers comments on traditional Korean values, the turmoil of emerging urban modernity and political injustice and moral irony of colonial life. 
The novel is propelled by its main character, the loathsome Yun Tusop, and by an ever-expanding portrait of his family, who are the victims of Yun's preoccupations with wealth, status and pleasure. Yun is a fabulously rich absentee landlord who profits from the coercive stability of Japanese rule. When not worrying about money, his main concerns are his health, the seduction of a child and the promotion of his dissolute grandsons to high office in the colonial bureaucracy. 
Yun's relations include non-scholars who purchase pretentious titles, widows, a half-wit son of a concubine, scheming retainers and pimps-in-waiting. This is not a family of rigorous Confucian propriety, political valour or artistic attainment. Yun engages in usury, berates his tenants, rails against colonial tenant laws and the cost of promoting his grandsons. His wretched dependents bemoan their fate, engage each other in vitriolic verbal battles and scheme to defraud Yun. 
Seoul, the backdrop for the novel, is portrayed as a city of cinemas, popular song festivals, red-light districts, tan pang cigarettes, rickshaws, streetcars and bus girls. The newfangled radio and gramophone are important symbols of the leisure-class lifestyle, and a cynical capitalism, an obsession with cost and return, and the bartering of things and people prevail. 
This would be a source of depression if it were not for Ch'ae's brilliant prose, his humour, his poignancy. Ch'ae honed his observational skills as a reporter in the 1920's.  
Chun Kyung-ja's translation is meticulous, no small feat for a work that hinges on risque dialogue and is peppered with 60-year-old references. 
This bold, insightful and honest tale is a must read for those who can laugh at the human condition. 

Michael Robinson
Michael Robinson teaches Korean History at Indiana University,
Bloomington, Indiana.
Far East Eronomic Review