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No One Writes Back

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  435 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Communication—or the lack thereof—is the subject of this sly update of the picaresque novel. No One Writes Back is the story of a young man who leaves home with only his blind dog, an MP3 player, and a book, traveling aimlessly for three years, from motel to motel, meeting people on the road. Rather than learn the names of his fellow travelers—or even invent nicknames for ...more
Paperback, 203 pages
Published November 16th 2013 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 2009)
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Average rating 4.28  · 
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 ·  435 ratings  ·  84 reviews

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Adam Dalva
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this book and will be shouting about it from the rooftops - it's a modernization of the picaresque form, as our lead, number zero, and his dog, travels randomly for three years sending letters to a series of numbers that no one replies to. It's a poignant, funny, weird, thoroughly original read, and it sticks the landing too. I don't want to summarize the plot, because every bit surprised me. This is a novel of rules, and it introduces them, follows them and breaks them in ways that maxim ...more
Jr Bacdayan
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Over the years, as I read more and more, I noticed that my emotional connection to the books I read became weaker and weaker. I used to get teary-eyed a lot when I read, but as the years passed something inside me hardened, maybe I built an emotional tolerance for literature, maybe I just became apathetic as a person, maybe I just grew up, or maybe I just read less emotional books. However, these days, I rarely encounter a book I feel emotionally attached to. Last year out of forty books I proba ...more
MJ Nicholls
This stunning novel is my second venture into Dalkey’s Korean Library, following the equally terrific At Least We Can Apologize. An unnamed protagonist travels from motel to motel meeting people and assigning them numbers, writing them letters after their encounters and patiently awaiting at least one response so he can end his travels. En route he meets the authoress of Toothpaste and Soap who is struggling to sell copies of her novel to subway passengers, and the two travel alongside the prota ...more
'No Man is an Island'

1. The story:

0, a stammering 32 y.o, no longer willing or able to live in the family home, prey to exhausting seizures, undertakes a three-year journey looking for penpals, with his blind dog Wajo. As the story begins, he has just met his 450th acquaintance on the road. He is still waiting for a letter.

Themes developped:

- The unquenchable need for approval,
- unrequited love, rejection, ghosting
- responsibility in interpersonal matters

2. My opinion on the story:

This is defini
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
The main character owns a home but has decided to embark on a long journey to nowhere. There is no time limit to this travel and he himself does not know when it will end. Along the way he moves from motel to motel, trying to meet as many people as possible and taking down their address (physical, not email) after getting to know them. He assigns each new person a number, instead of a name and writes letters to them at each stop. He then waits for their written replies by calling home to his fri ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I went to Vienna with a Nobel and was unsurprisingly disappointed. I roved in Portland for some damn reason and got what I deserved. I tried sojourning in the South and got burned. Then I jaunted on over to Korea (under Dalkey auspices) and was lovingly surprised.

answer KEY :: (view spoiler)
Lindu Pindu
May 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I cried like a baby at the end. This book was so fleeting yet filling, like an Ane Brun song, possibly "To Let Myself Go".

The perfect portrait of under-accomplishment, our main character is travelling without an explicit purpose. What he does on the road (but not necessarily likes or anything) is meet people, assign them a number, remember their address, and send them letters. He's accustomed to being alone with Wajo, the dog. This woman, a novelist, starts tagging along and it doesn't make muc
4.5 stars.

A young man leaves home with nothing but his blind dog, an MP3 player and a change of underwear. For three years, he wanders from place to place, eating convenience store noodles and sleeping in lonely motels. Each night, he writes a letter to one of the people he's met on his journey and hopes, as he mails each letter, that just one of them will write back. And then one day, one of the people he meets becomes a friend...

Nothing much happens in this story, yet it was completely compell
Nate D
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: wanderers
Recommended to Nate D by: an unexpected letter (Nathan N.R.)
In numbered episodes leaping back and forth in time an isolated man wanders aimlessly between motels and reflects on the past and family history that brought him to that point. The themes of communication and alienation in modern society are familiar, but the approach is fresh and the cultural context of South Korea one I know all too little about. This becomes a kind of thoughtful, self-reflective quasi adventure story crossing the endless semi-urban landscapes of inhabited space. Meanders a bi ...more
Michael Seidlinger
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Write to make a connection in hopes of one day hearing more than your own voice, echoing in the back of your mind.
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jang Eun-jin's No One Writes Back (translated by Jung Yewon, review copy courtesy of the publisher) is the story of a young man who has been travelling aimlessly for the past three years, with only his dog, Wajo, for company. Every day, he leaves the motel he's slept at, randomly chooses a direction and sees what the day will bring. If it brings a conversation with a stranger (and if the stranger agrees to swap addresses), then they are added to the traveller's mental database, each being given ...more
Charles Montgomery
Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Unbelievably touching story of a boy and his dog, their last travels, and relationships, both raveled and unraveled. Far and away the best book in this series.

No One Writes Back is a book that can be recommended to anyone: It's a kind of backpacker’s road trip and 'letters' about all the characters he meets on the way. Jihun is a man with a blind dog (ironically once a guide dog for the blind – Jang enjoys this kind of irony particularly as she slowly but surely reveals the histories of her cha
Paul Fulcher
Dalkey - and the Literary Translation Institute of Korea who are sponsoring the effort - are to be highly commended for publishing the Library of Korean Literature and bringing a relatively under-translated body of work into English.

No One Writes Back is the first of the series I have read - and if this is any guide I will certainly be trying more of the series.

A deceptively simple but beautifully told story of a traveller, accompanied only by his MP3 player and his blind guide-dog (and yes, tha
John Armstrong
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: korean-modern
Jang Eun-jin's novel No One Writes Back is a smart, tight, elegant, beautiful book that I will not soon forget.

The story - not the backstory, which is revealed bit by bit, but the story itself, what happens in the "now" of the book - begins like this, after a bit of set-up. A young man and his dog get on a subway posing as a blind man (with dark glasses) and a guide dog (with special harness). They do this to avoid the difficulties that can arise when a person tries to bring a dog on the train.
Dead John Williams
May 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, asian
I can't remember where I found this little gem, or more likely where I read about it before buying it.

Obviously this is not written by a westerner, but the impression of reading it is something like being put on a Japanese train for a long journey. Yes, I know the author is not Japanese but you get the idea. Nothing about the train would be familiar or the signs or the announcements but looking out the window would make perfect sense, trees, fields, clouds, hills, these are things that everyone
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Pain has come to an end for those who died, and has begun anew for those who remain alive. I don't know which is worse."

The book begins with our narrator mid-way his journey and finishes with the end of it. I want to think that it was fate that I completed reading this book as I am about to end a journey of my own. I absolute love how the story was written (translated), I must have penned down so many quotes. There are so many beautiful yet relatable lessons spread across this book, if one look
Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it
An unusual little book, only the second Korean novel I have ever read (after the ubiquitous 'The Vegetarian'). It didn't immediately grab me, and I almost abandoned it after the first 25 pages, but am happy I persevered... not least because, like Jihun/0, the protagonist, I too worked as a postman for almost seven years - and my best female friend is also a novelist, as is the only other real character, 751. The most interesting aspect of the book to me is realizing just how different the Korean ...more
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The first book I've read in the new Library of Korean Literature series published by Dalkey Archive. . . A man in his early 30s travels around Korea for three years, taking subways and taxis as his transportation, and staying in hotels. Except for his blind, 13-year-old dog, he travels alone until--shortly after this novel begins--he (unwillingly at first) strikes up a friendship with another traveller, a novelist who sells her books to subway passengers. What motivates the narrator to travel is ...more
Eveline Chao
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Very Murakami-ish, or maybe like a person in their twenties who really admires Murakami - disaffected voice floats along, crosses paths with random people on a journey, assigns each of them a number in his mind, writes them letters, eats noodles here and there. I think I might like this a lot more if I was younger, but from this point in time, the themes felt overly familiar & didn't really resonate. But, it was interesting to read this just to know what kind of contemporary fiction is happening ...more
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Gah, what an unclassifiable gem! A reworking of both the picaresque and epistolary novel forms (and perhaps the Bildungsroman, if we make allowances for age). This understated masterwork deals deftly with so many themes and emotions, capturing the difficult terrain of grief and isolation as well as the ambiguities of language. It is also an interesting portal into contemporary Korean life, and makes me excited for the upcoming titles in this Dalkey series.
Elizabeth H.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was great from the start, and got even better with time. At some points I thought I knew what would come next (just like how you just know what's going to happen to the characters in a Korean drama), but then unexpected twists come -- and these twists are introduced and written in an artful manner, not in some over-the-top dramatic fashion, which isn't how this book reads at all. ...more
Fred Daly
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A young man wanders around from place to place with a blind dog. I loved this book.
Tom Buchanan
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I simply cannot remember the last book I read that had a dog in it.
I've been exploring contemporary Asian literature more and more, after I noticed that my favorite books of a couple of years back where from Asian novelists. And I made a conscious effort to add more books from a variety of countries and I have not been disappointed so far. In fact, everything I read that is refreshing and new and promising comes from Asia lately, both in literary fiction and in genre fiction (convince me that there is something more mind-boggling than The Three-Body Problem se ...more
Annie Cole
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: korean
Wha a chore! The story and premise sound effective enough: a man and his dog journey in search of self-actualisation and closure, meeting an array of characters and learning something from each of them. Without replies to his letters, though, that closure can never be reached.

Unfortunately, reading this was like floating irksomely in limbo. What seemed to want to be philosophical and ironic actually came across as pretentious and contrived. The language was metaphor-heavy for what felt like the
Paul Ataua
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was so looking forward to reading ‘No One Writes Back’, and was really excited when the book finally arrived. I tore off the packaging and immediately started to read. The truth is I really didn’t get it. The premise was interesting enough; A young man leaves home with his mp3 player and his dog, moves from motel to motel, meets people, assigns them numbers rather than names, and writes letters every night. Promising, but nothing in it felt special. The stories of the people met didn’t seem th ...more
Aaron Mcquiston
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dalkey-archive
This is one of those books that you never want to end. "No One Writes Back" is a simple story of a man and his dog, travelling for three years, from hotel to hotel, without any direction or purpose, and writing a letter every night to someone whom he met along the way. Even though the story is simple, it is also inspiring and eventually one of the saddest endings I had read in a while (maybe a little bit too Hollywood if I think too deeply about it, so I'm not thinking too deeply about it.) The ...more
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
No One Writes Back reads much like Murakami's magical realism, except there is absolutely no magic here. ...more
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Angeli by: Jr Bacdayan
A few pages into this book was enough for me to give it a five star rating…

Rarely do I read books that hit me hard in the first few sentences, first paragraphs or even first chapters.

No wonder someone from my friends’ list recommended this. I want to thank that person for writing a review for this read because if it weren’t for his review, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to read this book. (Hello, JR Bacdayan!) P.S. I bought the book in Kobo because it would cost me more to have it delivered i
James F
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another novel for the Goodreads group that is reading Korean literature this year; the first modern work we have read by a woman author, and I must say the first that wasn't basically depressing. No One Writes Back strikes me as a good, somewhat postmodernist novel, in that it is a significant novel in a rather experimental or at least not quite realist style "disguised" as essentially a love-story (though it somewhat departs from the expectations of the genre).

The main characters are a young m
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Jang Eun-Jin (Hangul: 장은진) is a female South Korean writer. She was born in Gwangju, Korea, in 1976, and graduated from the Department of Geography at Cheonnam National University. Her literary debut won the Joongang Daily New Writers Award, and has since published four novels and a collection of short stories.

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