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The Old Garden

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  131 ratings  ·  19 reviews
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
Paperback, 544 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by Seven Stories Press (first published May 2nd 2000)
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3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  131 ratings  ·  19 reviews

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Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Here’s the story of The Old Garden: A South Korean political prisoner named Hyun Woo is released after 18 years in a cell. He has been almost entirely cut off from a society that moved from military dictatorship to a democratic state still marked by inequality. Upon stepping back into the world, he must re-orient himself to a modernized Korea, as well as to the people he left behind, and the legacy left by the love of his life. This love, Yoon Hee, was an artist who filled notebooks of journals ...more
Elevate Difference
A garden is a metaphor for revolution. When painstakingly cared for, dry and barren ground can eventually yield the most beautiful of things. A garden can change an unruly landscape to an ordered plot, produce food and purpose, and forever capture the energy of a gardener with loyalty, conviction, and a love of what it could become. It can be simple in activity, process, and outcome, yet incredibly intricate and an entity all its own.

Many of us will never live this metaphor and will never have t
Vikas Datta
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A most evocative and a most memorable read...
James F
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Old Garden begins in the present (at the time the novel was written) with the release of the protagonist, Oh Hyun Woo, a political opponent of the South Korean dictatorship, after almost eighteen years of imprisonment. Near the beginning, he discovers that his lover, a teacher and artist, Han Yoon-hee, whom he has not seen since a few days before his arrest, has died of cancer a few years earlier. He returns to the house in the country where they lived together and finds her journals and uns ...more
Daniel Burton-Rose
A melancholy love story set against the backdrop of the political and emotional fallout of the Kwangju massacre. I'm impressed that the novel was translated into English, but don't understand why no translator is credited.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting insights into how political prisoners saw the world and how they were treated in pre-democratic Korea. And maybe more interestingly, how their families dealt with life while they were in prison. The pro-democracy movement in Korea often gets confused with the Pro-NK movement and this was story was no exception. I didn't get the impression Mr. Oh was very pro-NK but he did make some confusing statements. I don't think this was an accident; I think the reader was supposed to be sl ...more
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lyrical, evocative, at times repetitive, a masterwork.
This work takes its time to build up steam. A long, leisurely read that is both artful and brutal.
The subject of the book is Korean dissident and political prisoner in 60s-90s South Korea. Part epistolary novel it alternates between the prisoner and letters written to him to be read posthumously authored by his wife. I learned so much about Korea (about which I was/am woefully ignorant). I have never read a work that I would call art literat
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Thought-provoking, profoundly moving, and at times heartbreaking, the Old Garden is a masterful book set against the backdrop of the 70's/80's student movement in Korea. It is one of my favorite books.
Nov 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, graceful, tragic- gives a good stirring to my soul. About a great love, of a country, a state, and lovers.
Love the writing, will check out more of the author's books- and he may well be one of my favourites.

//my blogpost:

Picked this book of the shelves in the library- ah, the loveliness of paperbacks.

Such a beautiful story, well-told, well-crafted.

I know if I were born in another era, I would easily be one of those fiesty students participating and maybe even leading protests. Somet
C'est plus 3.5 que 3.

Le Vieux Jardin est un livre génial. L'intrigue est très intéressante, l'écriture très belle, les personnages sont bien pensés, complexes, avec une vraie dimension humaine. Après toutes ces éloges, vous vous demandez certainement pourquoi que 3.5/5. Et bien parce que le contexte de l'histoire est plutôt compliqué pour quelqu'un étranger à l'histoire de la Corée. Et que comme beaucoup de roman, l'environnement où évoluent les personnage est une toile de fond, tout n'est pas
Casey (Myshkin) Buell
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Old Garden is the story of Oh Hyun-Woo, a political dissident, and Han Yoon-Hee, the woman he loves. The story opens as Hyun-Woo is being released after serving 18 years in prison for his involvement in the Kwangju uprising. Sadly for him he finds out that Yoon-Hee died 3 years earlier. He travels to the small house in an isolated village where he and Yoon-Hee spent an idyllic few months while he hid from the authorities, and there finds notebooks left behind by Yoon-Hee detailing her life w ...more
Barry Welsh
Aug 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
텐매거진 북클럽의 9월 모임에 초대합니다. 날짜는 9월 27일 토요일입니다. 이번 모임은 '무기의 그늘', '오래된 정원', '손님', '삼포 가는 길' 등의 베스트셀러 작품들로 다양한 문학상을 수상하신 전설적인 소설가 황석영 작가님과 함께합니다.

Please join the 10 Magazine Book Club for our September meeting on Saturday 27th September. We will be joined by very special guest novelist Hwang Sok-yong, legendary author of several award winning & bestselling books including 'The Shadow of Arms', 'The Old Garden', 'The Guest' & 'The Road to Sampo.' www.faceb
Candice Elizabeth
Although this is a tragic and moving love story that also deals with heavy historical and political topics, I found it to be approachable and easy to read. This story is set during the Kwangju massacre in Korea, and in its aftermath. I'd recommend this book for anyone interested in Korean history as well as other expats who live or have lived there. A really interesting perspective on what happened not too long ago in Korea.
Iris Lee
Good book, but a tad too long. I liked the format as the story is revealed through her notebook/diaries, while he tells his own story. Very sad. Was it worth it, that kind of sacrifice? We will never know.
Dora Okeyo
Aug 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book- it goes into my archives as one of the must read for my kids.
侯 二六
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, novels
Amanda Hicks
So hard to get through. Make sure you have knowledge of Korean history before you start this book or it will be very confusing.
Mar 29, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Curtis by: I forgot. Maybe
Checked the ebook out of the library with the Overdrive app.
There are quiet moments (the cadence is patient, to say the least). I felt it didn't need to be as long as it was...but valuable reading for the historical context (Gwangju Massacre and its wake).
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Sep 19, 2013
Jan Cölle
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Sep 09, 2014
John Armstrong
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Raphaela Hwang
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Mar 16, 2015
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Emi Ikkanda
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Aug 31, 2015
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Apr 22, 2014
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Jul 21, 2012
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소설가 황석영

He was born in Hsinking (today Changchun), Manchukuo, during the period of Japanese rule. His family returned to Korea after liberation in 1945. He later obtained a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Dongguk University (동국대학교).
In 1964 he was jailed for political reasons and met labor activists. Upon his release he worked at a cigarette factory and at several construction sites around the
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“Even if you are alive somewhere, the absence of the other person who used to be there beside you obliterates your presence. Everything in the room, even the stars in the sky, can disappear in a second, changing one scene for another, just like in a dream.” 23 likes
“The scene [Bruegel's 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus'] is filled with a vast field, and a cow and a farmer plowing. In the left-hand corner is a tiny ocean the size of a palm, and there, I can barely make it out, the two legs of a man who fell headlong into the sea. This is called the Fall of Icarus. Compared to everyday life, the fall of an idealist who flew too high with candle-wax wings is an unremarkable tragedy.” 2 likes
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