Distinguished for his talents as a rat killer, the nameless protagonist of Hye-young Pyun's City of Ash and Red is sent by the extermination company he works for on an extended assignment to the headquarters in C, a country descending into chaos and paranoia, swept by a contagious disease and with garbage collecting on the streets. No sooner does he disembark than he is whisked away by quarantine officials and detained overnight. Isolated and forgotten, he realizes that he is stranded with no means of contacting the outside world. Still worse, when he finally manages to reach an old friend he is told that his ex-wife's body was found in his apartment and he is the prime suspect. Barely managing to escape arrest, he must struggle among the rat-infested, garbage-filled streets to survive in this foreign city gripped with fears of contamination and to reestablish contact with his company and friends and clear his reputation.
But as the man's former life slips further and further from his grasp, and he looks back on his time with his wife, it becomes clear that he may not quite be who he seems to be. From the bestselling author of The Hole, City of Ash and Red is an apocalyptic account of the destructive impact of fear and paranoia on people's lives as well as a haunting novel about a man’s loss of himself and his humanity.
AuthorBy Hye-young Pyun, Translated by Sora Kim-Russell
Published6 November 2018
Dimensions5.50 x 8.25in.
About the author
Hye-young Pyun was born in 1972. She made her literary debut in Korean in 2000 when she won the Seoul Shinmun's annual New Writer's Contest with her short story "Shaking Off Dew." She has gone on to publish four short story collections and four novels. She was received several of Korea's most prestigious literary awards, including the Dong-in Literary Award in 2011, the Yi-sang Literary Award in 2014, and the Hyundae Munhak Award in 2015. She has published short stories in The New Yorker and Harper's Magazine. City of Ash and Red was named Book of the Year when it was published in Poland, and it has been licensed to France, Turkey, China, and Vietnam as well. She lives in Seoul, Korea.
Sora Kim-Russell is a literary translator based in Seoul. Her translations include Hwang Sok-yong's Princess Bari, Suah Bae's Nowhere to be Found, and Kyung-sook Shin's I’ll Be Right There. She teaches at Ewha Womans University and the Literary Translation Institute of Korea. Her full list of publications can be found at sorakimrussell.com. She lives in Seoul, Korea.
“A story of modern humanity’s survival and downfall as told through the tale of a man who finds his life ruined for reasons he doesn’t understand, in a city rife with disease, soiled by trash, and teeming with rats. When asked if it wasn’t painful to write about such a dark world, Pyun replied, ‘I get asked that a lot, but in fact I delight in images of elaborate destruction. I can savor the tension and work towards unraveling it.’ The delight that Pyun speaks of is the same that her readers feel. The source of that delight is the novel’s dark aesthetic and use of tension like a discordant note that jangles the nerves to keep the reader hooked all the way to the last page.”—Munhwa Ilbo
“Hye-young Pyun has made a name for herself in literature with her exquisite depictions of a world of strange and grotesque imagination. . . . In City of Ash and Red, the central motifs are contagion and rats. . . . Though the world she describes is a fictional one, the story of the extinction and denial of a weak man who must persevere within that world feels all too real. Perhaps this unpleasant sense of reality comes from the realization that our own world is stranger than the monstrous one that Pyun invents, that we ourselves are no stronger than rats. But what can we do? Just as the powerless protagonist must somehow survive in the unknown space of Country C, we too have no choice but to persevere no matter what life throws at us.”—Kukmin Ilbo
Praise for The Hole:
"Hye-young Pyun's The Hole is a masterwork of suspense, and a profound meditation on grief, solitude, and secrecy. At once unsettling and richly moving, The Hole is vital novel, a gift from a wildly inventive writer." —Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me
"Like Hitchcock or Abe, Pyun peers head on into the unnerving depths of human grief with the most methodical of eye, logically narrating our descent into such a clear, uncanny terror we hope to remind ourselves its only just a book, one wound from end to end with an exquisite magic that refuses to let go." —Blake Butler, author of 300,000,000
“While reading The Hole, you’ll find yourself suddenly doubting everything. Pyun is asking us a tough and terrifying question that none can dodge: Is your life safe?” —Kyung-sook Shin, New York Times bestselling author of Please Look After Mom
"By the time Hye-young Pyun's taut psychological thriller The Hole has tightened its grip on the unsuspecting mind, it's too late to escape. The shadows lurking in the novel become manifest, and dark poetic justice reigns. . . . The Hole is an unshakable novel about the unfathomable depths of human need." —Shelf Awareness
"Winner of many of Korea's top literary prizes and accolades, Pyun proves to be an effectively chilling storyteller whose expert narrative manipulations should earn new followers." —Booklist
“Fissures in life offer a glimpse of the truth that starts not from others but from us and that we are all oblivious to.” —Maeil Business News Korea
“Reminiscent of Stephen King’s Misery, Hye-young Pyun’s The Hole shows off her unique style of steadily rising terror with this dark tale of a man utterly cut off from his life.” —Munhwa Ilbo (Korea)
"[A] disconcerting and often sinister story." —Korea Herald