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Untold Night and Day

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3.68  ·  Rating details ·  114 ratings  ·  31 reviews
A seductive, disorienting story about parallel lives, unfolding over a day and a night in the sweltering heat of Seoul's summer

For two years, 28-year-old Kim Ayami has worked at Seoul's only audio theatre for the blind. But Ayami has just been made redundant, and thinking about the future feels like staring into the unknown.

Open to anything, Ayami spends a night in the
...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published January 30th 2020 by Jonathan Cape (first published April 20th 2013)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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Meike
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: korea, 2019-read
In this novel, everybody is a ghost, a shadow, a dreamed-up contraption, and life unfolds in strange loops, enigmatic encounters, and unsettling atmospheric disturbances; so in a way, it's a twisted realist novel! :-) Bae Suah throws her readers into a maelstrom of shifting timelines and perspectives, thus creating a puzzling depiction of the title-giving night and day in which multiple existences cumulate at one point in time: "Ayami was her future self or her past self. And she was both, ...more
Blair
To read Untold Night and Day is to stand on shifting ground. This is a story that always operates according to dream logic, in which identities are malleable and the impossible becomes unremarkable.

We are introduced to Ayami on her last day of employment at an 'audio theatre', where recordings are played to the visually impaired. At first the scene appears mundane: Ayami worries about a radio that keeps turning itself back on, speaks to her boss, and ruminates on her next career move. However,
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Paul Fulcher
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
The mysterious repeated statements enhance the sense of the surreal, the fantastical.

Untold Night and Day, translated by Deborah Smith, was originally published in Korean in 2013 as 알려지지 않은 밤과 하루 by 배수아 (Bae Suah).

This is the 7th book by 배수아 I have read (and the 9th translation by Deborah Smith, including 4 of novels by Han Kang) - see below for the list.

The first section of the novel is narrated from the perspective of Ayami (아야미), a young (or is she?) women a wannabe actress (or did she
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Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
This was a mesmerizing and contemplative narrative, completely absent of plot but rich in observation and imagery and juxtapositions. Parts of the prose felt fevered with their effectively utilized repetitions of said imagery (smallpox marks, fatal incidents with buses, white animals). I really enjoyed this, and if you enjoy other works that Deborah Smith has translated (namely Han Kang), suspect this is one you'll also connect with.

The e-pub I read didn't have a translators note - I'd looked
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Ana
Feb 19, 2020 rated it liked it
What a strange little book. I'm also going to borrow the term from the book blurb since I think it is the most fitting description for it: Untold Night and Day reads like a fever dream, where characters and events often get overlapped (I often had a faint sense of déjà vu, until I realized it was the same events and sentences being told over and over again) and intertwined. The story dances between ordinary and sometimes borderline eerie. While short in length, it packs plenty of different ...more
Chris Haak
Feb 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Very fascinating short, experimental novel, but also a confusing and difficult one that for me was not always enjoyable to read. I am interested to read more of Bae Suah though.
Thank you Jonathan Cape for the ARC.
Abbie | ab_reads
(#gifted @jonathancape) Wow, finishing Untold Night and Day I genuinely felt like I was coming down off a trip - or genuinely in that I imagine thats what coming down off a trip feels like! This book reads like a bizarre fever dream, blurring the lines between reality and imagination, past and present, manifesting the idea of parallel lives running alongside ours. Even people become blurred - who is to say whats real and whats just a figment of our imagination?
.
I definitely did not grasp
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Rachel
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
If there is one thing I have to say about Bae Suahs Untold Night and Day (translated by Deborah Smith), its best that you go into it knowing as little as you can. Because reading this book is like stumbling through the different layers of a strange dream, or watching many different alternate versions of a series of events unfold. You need to read it yourself in order to experience it in all its dizzying, unsettling glory and to try to work out what the story is truly about.

One thing that shines
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Jaclyn Crupi
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Through the use of narrative loops, surreal encounters and repetition, Bae Suah explores fractured selves and the possibilities of identity. Given its experimental and disorienting style, the book is ultimately quite simply set over a 24-hour period and follows a young former actress who has lost her job in an audio theatre. The unsettling atmosphere and weird encounters have strong Lynchian overtones. Untold Night and Day has its own internal logic and once you accept its fever dream qualities ...more
Leonard
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was phenomenal. What a weird and uncomfortable read! It was a good thing I didn't read anything about this book before I started it, because encountering the repetition the first few times was particularly (and necessarily) disorientating. The whole book features layer upon layer of the uncanny, numerous political motifs, and I loved being led on a journey by Ayami with no clear destination. I was concerned it would be an unsatisfying ending but it wasn't at all, and I can't stop thinking ...more
Q
Hypnotic experimental novel that explores a wide range of cerebral themes. The repetition of motifs and images give the illusion that the novel exists like a hall of mirrors, folding onto itself, demanding to be read twice-over. This is a vivid and mature novel with some unforgettable moments: the blackout restaurant; the bravura description of a heat-wave early on in the novel; the final chapters with Ayami and Wolfi, to name a few.
Callum McAllister
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pretty nuts! Lots of de ja vu and trippy reading experiences going on. You're halfway through a scene before you realise you think you've read parts of it before.. but did you?
Patrick
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favs, best-2020-read
This book so defies description or summary that all I can say is, wow. I've never read anything else like this, and it puts even Nowhere to be Found and Recitation to shame in terms of its scope and conception. I drew a lot of parallels from this book to The Impossible Fairytale by Han Yujoo, as both feature characters that exist only as they are constructed in some drifting imagination, and their agency in the real world is itself a literary contradiction.

My main reflection on overall "themes"
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Barathi Nakkeeran
Feb 14, 2020 rated it liked it
7.5 🌟

From the moment you step into Un-told Night and Day you are sequestered into a kind of strangeness, one where reality is splintered and particulate. Un-told is populated with unusual light and time. Doors are made of light, dusk is gathered, evenings expand, and the sun has shafts. Ayami, our protagonist, and her boss close their final shift at an audio theatre and walk the city, a city that is Seoul for paper but unnamed, strange and eerie for all other purposes. The next morning Ayami
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Astrid Verstraete
Feb 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: korean
I have no idea what to say about this book, I have no idea how to rate it either. Would I recommend it to people, no. Did I hate it, not really either. I'm confused about being confused about this book.

I can say, don't have any expectations bases off of the summary of the book. Factually it's entirely correct, but any expectations you may have off of it will be wrong. Then again, I have no idea how to describe what I just raid. Did I mention I was a bit confused?

I definitely prefer it over The
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Varsha Ravi (between.bookends)
Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith is both a slippery, cryptic detective novel and a surreal, poetic, fever dream. Just when you feel youre getting hang of what is going on, it disintegrates in your fingers and youre left grabbing fistfuls of air. The novel starts rather tame, following Ayami on the last day of her employment in an audio theatre facility where recordings are played for the visually impaired. The conversations initially seem normal, she ...more
Evelina Dimova
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
i want to compare this book to others that i've already read ("a bit like "after dark" by murakami, but even more trippy, isn't it?"), but i feel like that would do it a disservice. it's a quick, surreal read that sucks you in and in the end, leaves you more confused than when you first started it - i still have no idea who the characters in this trip of a book were, whether they were the same people or not, whether they were alive or ghosts and frankly, i do not care at all. not knowing takes ...more
Hannah
Untold Night and Day is a fever dream that Im not entirely sure I understood, but it was intriguing nonetheless. Its a book that would be best read in one or two sittings (instead of over a week, which is how I read it). Even then, I think that one would feel the need to reread it to fully understand it.

Thank you to ABRAMS and NetGalley for the advance review copy.
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niri
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
incomprehensible & sometimes extremely beautiful (that's not the right word but i can't find the right word). i loved the translator's note especially.
Clarke O'gara
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Weird, original, short with a great twist.
catherine ♡
Actual Rating: 2.0

So this book wasn't very long (only 160 pages), yet it felt long when I was reading it and I very nearly could not finish it at all. It was confusing, to say the least, and I kind of felt like I was reading a short story for school one that I didn't understand and needed a teacher to break down for me.

It was definitely very dialed in at the beginning, and Ayami's feelings of having failed in multiple careers and being at a standstill it was all very relatable. Then the
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Adam Stone
If you're really into the type of story where ideas are more important than logic, characters, plots, or common sense, than this "fever dream" story is for you.

If you enjoy book where, at its conclusion you think "I bet the author could neatly explain their intention during a forty-five minute lecture." then you should never let this book into your house.

It's a sprawling mess of retconning characters from page to page, returning to specific images and situations to re-explain them, only to make
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Avery
There are certain qualities to this work that I enjoy and can appreciate their use as an artistic device, but overall I did not enjoy this work. The artistic elements and narrative style were not enough to make up for the fact that I was not invested in Ayami or the events of the plot in anyway. She's there but she felt so unimportant to me as a reader. My interest in the plot came from my desire to see how Bae would develop this "fever dream".

Stylistically its reminded of The Vegetarian and
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Amy
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
Oh my word.
When I started this I liked it but I wasn't really sure what was going on. As it continued, I still didn't really know what was happening. Then it clicked. Suah is leaving breadcrumbs for us throughout the text and suddenly it all connects. This was very meta, very Paul Auster, and I need to take some time out to reflect.
I now want to read everything by Bae Suah. Also Deborah Smith never fails to amaze me with her talent at translating texts and she has done an incredible job with
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Lu
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 🌟🌟🌟💫
This is a book I really regret not reading all in one sitting. I feel like I could have gotten a lot more the story if I hadnt taken so long to read it.

I dont originally like shorter books for whatever reason, so it takes me longer than it should to finish them. This story needs your attention to pick up on all the things that are mentioned to figure out how theyre connected.

I hope to revisit this a little later, when Ive forgotten it a bit, so I can read it and appreciate it fully!
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BiblioPhil
A bus crashes, a monk gets out and the driver, wearing an enormous hat; a white crow perches on the roof. A man falls in the river, above him floats a hot air balloon in whose basket is a clown,with the sign PEACE. Incomprehensible but diverting if you switch off your mind.
Bodine Dekkers
Mar 05, 2020 rated it liked it
A strange little book this one. It's as if you're in a dreamworld and move between layers. One character feels like multiple and multiple are one. Strong Inception vibes.

Recommend reading it in a short period of time to keep better track of the storyline.
BooksnPugs
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you I recently won this Goodreads giveaway, once I receive this from the publisher I will read & review.
Alan O'Keeffe
Mar 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book just confused me a lot. Intentional plot holes that just went over my head.
Kamila Kunda
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
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Bae Suah, one of the most highly acclaimed contemporary Korean authors, has published more than a dozen works and won several prestigious awards. She has also translated several books from the German, including works by W. G. Sebald, Franz Kafka, and Jenny Erpenbeck. Her first book to appear in English, Nowhere to be Found, was longlisted for a PEN Translation Prize and the Best Translated Book ...more

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