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3.64  ·  Rating details ·  58 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
"Bae Suah offers the chance to un-know—to see the every-day afresh and be defamiliarized with what we believe we know—which is no small offering."—Music & Literature

The meeting between a group of emigrants and a mysterious, wandering actress in an empty train station sets the stage for Recitation, a fragmentary yet lyrical meditation on language, travel, and memory by
Paperback, 280 pages
Published January 24th 2017 by Deep Vellum Publishing (first published December 10th 2011)
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Paul Fulcher
Jan 28, 2017 rated it liked it
배수아 (Bae Suah)'s 2011 novel 서울의 낮은 언덕들 (The Low Hills of Seoul) has been translated into English as Recitation by the MBI award-winning translator of The Vegetarian, Deborah Smith. A lengthy extract of the novel's start - and, more sensibly, under the English title that is equivalent to the original Korean - can be found here:

Bae Suah's novella Nowhere to Be Found was ony of my favourite reads of 2015 (my review
Ronald Morton
Late last month I came across this very brief article recommending two women authors in translation that I was not familiar with (and the third is Valeria Luiselli who is amazing).

So I promptly put in some ILL requests; this was one of them (and Josefine Klougart was another, I'm planning on starting it today). I was most excited for Bae Suah, based on: "Bae Suah is one of the hottest, most experimental voices coming out of South Korea right now. She’s published numerous novels and short story c
Terry Pitts
Mar 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
Bae Suah and I have parted ways for the time being. About halfway through "Recitation" I found I simply didn't care anymore, wasn't curious enough to see where Bae Suah was headed. Some of the times when this happens it simply means that it's just not the right time for me to be on the same wavelength as this book. Maybe I have failed it, instead of the other way round. So "Recitation" goes back on my books-to-be-read list and one day I'll take another stab at it. Sometimes the way forward is cl ...more
"It is a challenging yet cognitively engaging and rewarding read.

"... This is not a book for lazy readers; Bae expects us to show up ready to work. Her handsome prose, however, is never an obstacle.

"... Recitation will make Bae’s anglophone readers and other fans of post-modern fiction eagerly await the publication of more of her novels in English."
-- from my review in New York Journal of Books
Sonia Crites
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book reads like a dream. It is beautifully written. It is bizarre and will keep you wondering what is really going on. I really loved the feel of it. The language and use of descriptions is inspiring. For my #readingaroundtheworld friends it qualifies for South Korea.
Sep 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
did not finished this one, stopped somewhere in the middle. weirdly written, I couldn't follow the plot - I do not know it it's translations fault, but it was really a struggle
Sam Gill
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book was a surreal experience unlike any other book I've read (in a good way), which I think is a testament to Suah's writing and Smith's translation. I was particularly struck by the co-existence of multiple points of reference which couldn't co-exist in any traditional concept of narrative continuity or linear chronology, and how subtle the contradictions were. A few examples would be when a character inexplicably changes the pronoun they refer to themselves during a stream-of-con ...more
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
bizarre and rambling and poetic and brilliant and confounding and ephemeral... i love books like this, which seem to have no purpose, no plot, no trajectory typical to a novel... beautiful prose, intermingled with mini-tales and happenings... amazingly derivative, non-genre, and a joy to find...
Naomi V
Feb 09, 2017 marked it as to-read
(recommended by Unabridged Books)
Bill Brydon
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Kyung-hee said that in her hometown, she’d been a theatre actor specialising in recitation Several times already now, she’d had the idea of visiting the houses she’d left behind. Grasshoppers spring up around her feet, transparent carapaces propelled into the air as she crosses the dirt yard and approaches the cement buildings, their desiccated structures hard and dry as stale bread, and riddled with holes. She peers through the window into the ground-floor flat, where a naked bulb casts a cold ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. It reminded me of Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson. More than simply an unreliable narrator, there is a sense of the absence of progression or chronology. It's a hard read, but I did enjoy, especially as the meaning slowly came through at the end. I wish I had time to read this book again, I would probably be able to give this book better rating, since this book needs a careful reading of the meaning, which only appears clearly in the last sections. As such, I feel l ...more
Judith De
Apr 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was not my kind of book. A long, complicated, and often incoherent stream of consciousness from an amorphous narrator. I’m glad I read it, to break out of my normal genres and to introduce myself to one of South Korea’s highly acclaimed authors. But it was definitely not my flavor.
Amy He
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I don’t think I’m mystic or surrealist enough to understand this book.
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소설가 배수아

Suah Bae (This is the author's preferred Romanization per LTI Korea) is a South Korean author who was born in 1965.

Suah Bae graduated from Ewha Womans University with a degree in Chemistry. Originally a government employee at Gimpo Airport in Incheon, Bae wrote stories as a hobby. At the time of her debut in 1993, Bae Su-ah (1965~ ) was a government employee working behind the embarkation/d

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“The deeply flushed midsummer sunlight, the strong, clear alcohol filling a dirty glass, a goat tethered with a rope, the enormous sides of a glitteringly white modern building, the solemn melody of the national orchestra, the slender-necked actress who was performing on the stage, the arc of a rainbow which, after a sudden shower, fell to the earth like an arrow from between the clouds, a sheepdog pressed flat under the wheel of a car, a herd of stubborn goats bobbing their heads with profound indifference, blue cloth fluttering in the wind, designating something sacred, a swarthy woman looking down on the street below from a first-floor window, her exposed chest leaning out over the wooden frame, cat-sized rats threading their way around the legs of market stalls, unlit signs and display windows, a sombrely lit butcher’s fridge, each dark red carcass still buttressed with the animal’s skeleton, Banchi’s printing shop, on the ground floor of a temple on the main street in the city centre, there Banchi makes picture postcards featuring his own translations of Indian sutras.” 0 likes
“I wonder about the collective soul of the widespread and artificially constructed new tribe known as the ‘city dweller’, who is no longer a part of any traditional society or race, and has never at any time held spiritual or religious beliefs which arise from any geographic specificity, or at least beliefs which are current only in a specific region, given that, even in regions where such beliefs had once held sway, the degree and duration of industrialisation meant not only that shamanism had lost its power but that access to collective memories of it had been completely cut off, with each individual inextricably bound up with things that would once have been foreign to them, psychological differences flattened, made to conform to an international standard now long accepted, a globally-current ‘enlightened’ standard that is considered the only one of value; the modern city dweller who has thus lost no few of their native, traditional, mythical elements, which defy explanation; the modern city dweller in whom the majority of us can now recognise ourselves.” 0 likes
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