As South Korea violently changed from a military dictatorship to a democratic state, an idealistic activist and a brazen painter shared a brief love affair that would impact the rest of their lives.
Drifting to an old house in the countryside where they once sought refuge, Hyun Woo finds Yoon Hee's letters, diaries, and paintings that document the extraordinary life of the woman he loved and lost. He recalls the circumstances that brought him to Yoon Hee and the lifetime they spent apart. As his world shrank in prison, hers expanded as she fought off the loneliness of his absence and witnessed the dramatic events of their country's recent history, the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany, and the harsh natural landscape of Siberia. He also learns that she has left him a living legacy that will help him find his way again.
Hyun Woo is fleeing authorities for his participation in the Kwangju Uprising and for promoting democracy in South Korea when he meets and falls in love with Yoon Hee. Their idyllic time together is cut short when Hyun Woo is captured and thrown in prison. Nearly two decades later, he is released to find Korea aggressively modernized, democratic in name, but filled with inequality and corruption. His former comrades are old and jaded, and Yoon Hee, never allowed to see him during his imprisonment, has died.
Internationally acclaimed author Hwang Sok-yong presents a tragic love story as two parallel lives. Set against the backdrop of the end of the Cold War and South Korea's political revolution of the eighties, The Old Garden is a tale of faith--in one's country, to one's ideals, and in one's heart.
"Hwang Sok-yong has given contemporary world literature a beautiful gift. Written in a voice that is utterly humanistic, The Old Garden combines multiple narratives that resonate on the levels of the historical, political, and aesthetic. Hwang's masterful command of the novelistic form is evident in his ability to be simultaneously intimate and worldly. Without a doubt, The Old Garden will be seen as the definitive novel of Korea's Gwangju generation." —Jeff Shroeder, guitarist for the Smashing Pumpkins and English PhD candidate at UCLA
The Old Garden by Hwang Sok-yong; translated from the Korean by Jay Oh