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UNTOLD NIGHT AND DAY by Bae Suah
Translated by Deborah Smith
An overwhelming pall of darkness - both literal and metaphoric - haunts this deeply unsettling novella of shifting realities and waking dreamscapes. Ayami is the sole worker at an auditory theatre for the blind. She sits in darkness, reciting lines, while a ghost radio crackles on and off. When the theatre closes down, she is dragged through the blacked out streets of Seoul by her now former boss, an ethereal but demanding presence who is searching for a missing friend.
At its heart a metaphysical detective story, Untold Night and Day borrows from Korean shamanic storytelling tradition to disorient the reader, never making clear what or who is real. Repetitive references to Persian surrealist classic, The Blind Owl, serve as an unreliable anchor, as do the cavalcade of poets Ayami meets along the way. Plot points repeat, characters reappear in different guises, perspectives meld and diverge like tides. It all makes for a strange, challenging read; one that lost me a couple of times along the way but still kept me searching for the light.
Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah (Tr. Deborah Smith)
Jonathan Cape, 2020