By Pyun Hye-young
Pyun Hye-young, who went on to win the 2017 Shirley Jackson Award for her psychological thriller “The Hole,” has returned to her very first novel, “Aoi Garden.”
She has revised her debut collection of nine short stories, which she published 18 years ago in 2005, and invites readers on a literary journey back to where she began.
The title piece, “Aoi Garden,” evokes a more intense sense of horror as it resonates with the recent reality of people struggling to survive in a city ravaged by an epidemic, unable to find an escape.
The story vividly portrays a family of three -- a mother, a sister and the narrator -- who are left behind in a city plagued by the stench of vomit and garbage, with frogs falling from the rainy sky. The fear of disease that may have originally reminded us of the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003, now connects with the readers once again in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the author’s note, Pyun writes that she had moved away from her style of her earlier days and “cannot go back.” Readers who are more familiar with Pyun’s recent works may encounter a somewhat different style of grotesque imagination.
But Pyun’s signature suspense and perspective in delving into the horror of an ordinary daily life in a dystopian world still pulls readers into her wonderland.
Pyun's original "Aoi Garden" was also published in French and Japanese.