Quick Review – Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale

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Han Yujoo (author), Janet Hong (translator), The Impossible Fairy Tale, Graywolf Press, 2017. 214 pgs.

Underneath the brightly colored cover of this book is a satisfyingly dark novel. It was a little too meta for my brain, so I had to read other published reviews to wrap my head around this. I also listened to this interview with the author herself, found at this link.

The first part of the novel is a morbid story of young elementary school children, mainly focusing on a girl named Mia and another girl simply referred to as “the Child”. We then go to metafiction territory in the second part.

I like Han Yujoo’s creative style in this novel. It’s different and refreshing, though it might test the patience of some readers. Some paragraphs are deliberately repetitive and there’s also lots of wordplay going on. Ineluctably, some nuances will definitely be lost in translation, so credits to translator Janet Hong for keeping the English version as faithful as possible to the original in Korean.

One example of wordplay is the recurring references to dogs in the novel. In the interview I referenced above, Han briefly explains this: “Dog” in Korean is 개 (gae / geh) while “the Child” is 그 아이 (geu ah-ee). Say “그 아이” fast, over and over, and the resulting contraction becomes “개”. Interesting.

For now, this is all I can make of The Impossible Fairy Tale. To appreciate this more, I’ll be reading this again when my “pending-to-read” list becomes more manageable. Hopefully, I can write a more thorough analysis in the future.

LitHub has an excerpt here.

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