Hunger and Slaughter

20th Century Korean Literature

Book 49
Literature Translation Institute of Korea

Both “Consumption” and “Hunger and Slaughter” are clearly more in line with the rest of Choi Seo-hae’s work in terms of style and treatment. “Consumption,” with which Choi also debuted in 1924 when it was published in the Donga Ilbo, depicts the sufferings and pressures of a destitute man who cannot provide for his elderly mother, ailing wife, and young daughter. Their troubles increase as the story progresses, with the story ending in bleak despair when the protagonist’s mother is mortally wounded. In “Hunger and Slaughter,” which was published the following year and is essentially the same story as “Consumption,” we see the writer’s attempt at expanding and reworking many of the same themes and concerns. Names and the perspective have changed, and the thoughts of the main character, Kyeongsu, have been expanded to better illustrate his inner torment. However, the most significant and drastic change is the ending. Instead of simply fading out in passive despair, “Hunger and Slaughter” ends in tragic violence.
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About the author

Choi Seo-hae (1901-1932) is one of the major writers of early proletarian literature from the 1920s. Designated as the first of the Anti-Conventional School, Choi’s works heralded the arrival of a new kind of Literature of Poverty in the history of Korean literature.

Born in Seongjin in North Hamgyeong Province in 1901, Choi grew up in extreme poverty. He wandered the Gando area from an early age, leading a rock-bottom existence, but despite a lack of formal education, he had a burning desire to pursue literature. He was able to debut as a writer when “Homeland” was published in Chosun Mundan in 1924 on the recommendation of the writer and activist Yi Kwang-su.

His representative works, such as “Escape,” “Hunger and Slaughter,” “The Death of Bakdol,” “Seizing the Big Water,” “The Tyrant,” and “Bloody Flames,” take as their subjects struggling destitute characters who reject the established order and pursue survival through murder and arson. Although his vivid descriptions about poverty that have been borne of his personal experience are striking, the abrupt leaps in exposition tend to undermine the overall artistic composition.

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Additional Information

Literature Translation Institute of Korea
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Published on
Nov 30, 2014
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Literary Collections / Asian / General
Literary Collections / General
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