Award-winning Stories Collected: The Taste of Summer by Ha Seong-nan
by Choi Jaebong October 27, 2014
Three out of the 10 stories included in Ha Seong-nan’s collection of short stories, The Taste of Summer, are major literary award-winning pieces. Ha Seong-nan is a leading Korean writer, representative of Korean aesthetics in literary short fiction.
Including the award-winning pieces, the stories that appear in this collection share several motifs. The first noticeable motif is the existence of an economically incapable head of household. “The Time of Alpha,” “Rhetorical Expressions from that Summer,” and “April Fools’ Day in 1968” are good examples of this first motif, along with “Needless to Mention a Pig.” In “The Time of Alpha,” a father quits his teaching job and idly wanders the entire country, supposedly to run a new business, and in “Rhetorical Expressions from that Summer,” a father leaves his family for a small town in the country and opens a store there. After his family experiences an emergency, they go to see him at his store in the small town and observe their father alone while he boils summer potatoes on a small stove.
Another motif is the doppelgänger. This motif is used effectively in “The Story of Two Women” to depict the main character’s compassion and guilt about the May 1980 uprising in the southern city of Gwangju, as well as in “Why Did She Go to Suncheon?” in order to bring attention to social problems such as kidnapping and human trafficking.
The final motif is food: peaches in the title story; curry in “Curry on the Border”; and pork belly in “Needless to Mention a Pig.” Food is also a reference point for subtle but clever wit hiding throughout this collection of stories.
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AUTHORS Ha Seong-nan Ha Seong-nan made her literary debut in 1996 when her short story “Grass” won the Seoul Shinmun New Writer’s Contest. Her works include the short story collections Rubin’s Vase, Flowers of Mold, Bluebeard’s First Wife, Wafers, and The Taste of Summer, the novels The Joy of Eating, A, and A Christmas Carol, and essay collections Hope, That Beautiful Strength (co-authored), and Things Still Excite Me.