Bora Chung and the challenge of writing scary stories
We spoke with South Korean writer Bora Chung about her cult novel Cursed Bunny, what she’s working on next and why she won’t meddle with her translators.
What’s the one story from Cursed Bunny that you’d like all Australian readers to read and why?
I believe every reader is entitled to their own reading experience, so I do not dare impose any viewpoint upon my readers. I personally like “Goodbye, My Love” because I first tested the idea (surreptitiously) in class and I wrote it because my students seemed to be interested, so I feel my students gave me permission for this story. But that is just my personal attachment to that one particular story.
What draws you to the science fiction or horror genres?
The possibilities! In science fiction I, as a writer, can go anywhere, any time and place, work with or fight against anybody or anything, and that gives me so much freedom. As for the horror genre, I just really like ghost stories. In this day and age, it is extremely difficult to imagine something genuinely scary that is also fresh and new. I love the challenge.
As a literary translator yourself, how was the experience of being on the other side of the translation process?
I never thought anyone would ever want to translate my stories, so I am very grateful and still quite surprised. As a translator myself, I know for a fact that the more you try to meddle with the translating process, the worse everything gets, so I shut up and trust my translator. And the end result is wonderful as you can see. It is always wise to trust my translator(s).
What themes and ideas are you interested in exploring next in your writing?
I am writing a cycle of stories about sea creatures. The common thread connecting all six stories is about climate crisis, sea pollution and other eco-biological crises that humans have created for the entire planet. We really need to see ourselves as one of the many, many life forms that just happen to inhabit this world and not as some kind of ruler or owner of the planet. If we continue this way, we will all die. But maybe that will be better for all the other species.
Who is another South Korean writer you would recommend? What is your favourite book of theirs, translated into English or otherwise?
Djuna!!! Their new book, Counterweight, was translated by Anton Hur and just published by Penguin Random House.
Counterweight is not too long and is absolutely, relentlessly wild. It is a hardboiled murder mystery-global conspiracy-virtual reality Sci-Fi thriller and a tiny bit of a ghost story all rolled into one. Djuna have been writing for three decades and have so many works, some are more philosophical and pensive and others more fast-paced and action-packed like this one. I think Counterweight will completely absorb readers who enjoy a more active, fast-paced, thriller-type science fiction story. Warning: you will not be able to put it down, though. Be prepared.
Bora Chung will be in conversation with Paige Clark at the Wheeler Centre on Wednesday 17 May 2023 for World of Words, a new international writers series.
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