U-il thinks he can fly, like his favourite cartoon character, Toto the Astroboy. His older sister, eleven-year-old U-mi, is doing her best to look after him since their mother died and their father deserted them.
They’ve been shunted from one relative to the next, put up with a ‘new mother’, and ensured their father’s escalating violence, and now all they have are their well-meaning but unhelpful neighbours: the Moons, Landlady Grandma, and the weightlifting Mr Yi and his squawking widow bird.
U-mi does her best to care for her fragile younger brother, but her despair leads her to mimic her father’s behaviour, abusing the one person closest to her …
About the Author
Oh Jung-Hee was born in Seoul in 1947. She is an uncontested master of the short story in Korea, and is the recipient of the Dongin Literature Award and the Yi Sang Prize. She has published four short collections of stories and her work has been translated and published in Europe, South-east Asia and Latin America. In 2003, she was awarded the LiBeratur Literary Prize for The Bird.
About the Translator
Jenny Wang Medina is a doctoral student of Korean literature and culture at Columbia University in New York City. She has translated numerous works of Korean short fiction into English. Her most recent translation, of Korean author Ch'oe Yun's novel Mannequinne, won the Korea Times Translation Award in 2006.
A 'tiny, perfect novel' The Times 'Oh Jung-Hee attempts that tricky enterprise, a narrative seen through the eyes of a child. She succeeds through a delicate, understated writing that finds drama in the everyday, and the extraordinary in the ordinary.' Tobias Hill, author of The Cryptographer
'A magical concoction of fairy tale and poem. Exquisitely translated by Jennifer Wang Medina, Oh Jung-Hee's shining tale of a childhood trapped between ancient and modern worlds in late twentieth century Korea delights with its imagery and the spirit of its characters even while it disturbs with a dark vision of freedom curtailed.' Polly Clark, author of Take Me With You
'A dangerous story told with impeccable grace...after reading The Bird, you might want to run out and round up every Jung-Hee book you can.'
'One of the best discoveries I’ve made during my look at Korean literature is Oh Jung-hee, a writer whose stories of ordinary people stand out among the many works I’ve read this year.'
Tony's Reading List
'The Bird, is a unique coming-of-age, or anti-coming-of-age novel.'
Books from Korea