Books - International Booker Prize Shortlist: Cursed Bunny

Tony Cross is reading all the books on the International Booker Prize shortlist ahead of this year's awards on 26th May. Here are his thoughts on Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur ...

Slowly, he whispered, “I feel like I’m being given permission to stay alive.” His reply was somehow so heart-breaking that I tied him up with all my might.

Cursed Bunny (p. 159)

This collection of short stories, written by Bora Chung and translated by Anton Hur, is an example of precisely why I like reading literary award short listed books. It isn't the sort of book I would have picked up otherwise because it isn't the kind of book, I think I would enjoy.

The stories - of which there are ten - aren't quite horror stories. They're sometimes visceral, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes strange, and sometimes spooky. Sometimes a story is all those things. That is also a long-winded way of saying they are 'genre defying' but that doesn't really help much either. Think of it as one of those portmanteau films made by Amicus or Hammer that no one seems to make anymore. Or a series of Inside Number 9. Someone somewhere could make a great television series out of these stories.

I found myself enjoying each story. Occasionally I could see where a story was going, but that didn't make them any less enjoyable. The stories, despite their defiance of genre, often feel like fables. One, The Embodiment, feels a lot like a feminist take on South Korean society and a woman's place in it. Another, Snare, seems to be a morality tale about how greed makes people cruel. Perhaps I'm being over simplistic.

I enjoyed some stories more than others, like you always do with short stories. Perhaps my favourite is the last, Reunion, which feels the most personal but there wasn't one that I felt was a dud, although Home Sweet Home, was the story I found most obvious. I don't read a lot of these types of collections so I might be more surprised or more forgiving of these stories than people who are.

I never know how to praise translations when I have no idea what the original is like, but Anton Hur's translation never feels ugly or dull so that's all good.

I enjoy reading short stories, although I don't read enough and I'm glad I read this. Sometimes you must read something outside your comfort zones.

Follow Tony on Twitter at @Lokster71

Image - Amazon

The 2022 International Booker Prize celebrates the finest fiction from around the world, translated into English.

The 2022 shortlist is:

Elena Knows, written by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish; published by Charco Press - Find the book on Amazon
Cursed Bunny, written by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur from Korean; published by Honford Star 
- Find the book on Amazon
A New Name Septology VI-VII, written by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls from Norwegian; published by Fizcarraldo 
- Find the book on Amazon
Heaven, written by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd from Japanese; published by Pan Macmillan, Picador 
- Find the book on Amazon
Tomb of Sand, written by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell from Hindi; published by Tilted Axis Press 
- Find the book on Amazon
The Books of Jacob, written by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft from Polish; published by Fitzcarraldo Editions 
- Find the book on Amazon

The 2022 International Booker Prize winner will be announced on 26th May 2022.
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