At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong

Written by one of South Korea’s most beloved authors, there is an urgency to At Dusk despite the gentle care taken in its storytelling

Book Review by Katie Goh | 28 Nov 2018
  • At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong
Book title: At Dusk
Author: Hwang Sok-yong, translated by Sora Kim-Russell

As Park Minwoo, a wealthy and successful architect, reaches the dusk of his life, he receives a note from his childhood sweetheart, Cha Soona. As Minwoo and Soona begin corresponding and reflecting on their childhood spent in a poor slum on the outskirts of Seoul, Minwoo looks back on his life and asks himself if he missed the point as he raced towards financial success. Interspersed with Minwoo’s chapters, we meet Jung Woohee, an insomniac who works the graveyard shift at a convenience store while pursuing her life’s passion of theatre. She has her own role to play in Minwoo’s setting narrative. 

Written by Hwang Sok-yong, one of South Korea’s most beloved authors, At Dusk is a gently told story of a man’s life, his greatest achievements and bitterest regrets. With a tone of deep set melancholy, Hwang asks us to look backwards and forwards simultaneously. What hold does our childhood still have over us? How can we trust our memory when there are so many versions of the past? Who did we betray to get ahead?

The book is on the verge of something, and despite the gentle care in Hwang’s storytelling, there is an urgency to his words. Dusk is a short-lived time of reflection when pink clouds split the dying sunlight. Aptly named, At Dusk is made up of this gorgeous setting light as Minwoo pauses to look around at a Seoul he no longer recognises; just enough time to take it all in before everything goes dark.  

Scribe, 29 Nov, £12.99