October 19, 2021

“Friend”: Paek Nam Nyong and the long search for a decent North Korean novel

Pyongyang's literary output has long been seen as stilted and doctrinaire. Could a new translation change that?

"Friend" by Paek Nam Nyong and translated by Immanuel Kim is out in May. You can pre-order it here.

A good book is a precious thing in North Korea. In a society where propaganda is omnipresent in every other form of media, books offer their readers a form of escape between the lines, an oblique hinterland of interpretation that the regime might shape, but cannot truly define. They are also one of the only forms of entertainment untethered to the country’s unreliable electricity grid.