The Wolf Who Writes

This intimate novel follows the story of Seo-yeong, a writer of a popular series of books ignored by the literary establishment, as she learns to come to terms with her issues of abandonment stemming from her childhood, self-hatred, and her writer’s block. Seo-yeong has recurring dreams when there is a full moon, where she turns into a werewolf and devours the person she is dating. After consuming her date in her dream, she breaks up with them and feverishly writes their life story as the next installment in her series. One day, she meets another writer, So-un, whose first book she admired deeply and was intensely moved by. They are attracted to each other, in body and spirit and writing, and Seo-yeong is hesitant to enter into a relationship due to her fears of being seen and known. (The way that both women, one of them a lesbian and the other bisexual, are treated with dignity and written about matter-of-factly, is not as common in Korean literature, but is refreshing and progressive.)

As So-un becomes more and more successful, Seo-yeong is unable to write, but their supportive relationship enables Seo-yeong to deal with the hurts she experienced as a young girl. Both her parents were writers and left Seo-yeong with her aunt for long stretches of time without much explanation, essentially making Seo-yeong wonder why she isn’t important enough and severing those child-parent bonds. Seo-yeong is able to write about her own experience in the end and feels freer.

Though not much happens in the story narrative-wise, this is a very interesting look at societal pressures, a look into the fairly hermetic Korean literary establishment, and the everyday struggles of writers and the process of the work of writing. An inventive, imaginative work that mixes fantastical elements with a coming of age story, this is a new, refreshing, different voice from Korea.