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Flowers of Mold

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  521 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Praised for her meticulous descriptions and ability to transform the mundanity of everyday life into something strange and unexpected, Ha Seong-nan bursts into the English literary scene with this stunning collection that confirms Korea's place at the forefront of contemporary women's writing. From the title story told by a woman suffering from gaps in her memory, to one a ...more
Paperback, 212 pages
Published April 23rd 2019 by Open Letter (first published 1999)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  521 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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Amalia Gkavea
‘’Teacher, I want to fly, but the ground keeps pulling me down.’’

Korean Literature is rapidly flourishing thanks to a plethora of wonderful women whose work is finally presented to us through excellent translations. They are unique in connecting the daily reality to a hazy world that lies beneath the surface, resulting in an almost hallucinatory marriage that presents all the right challenges for the readers. Flowers of Mold captivates with its title and binds us to an array of stories that
Nov 08, 2020 rated it did not like it
I rarely give a book 1 star anymore because if it is that bad, then I have no business reading it. However, this past week I already did a DNF on a book, and felt bad that I would be doing it again, and so I gutted it out. I see no redeeming qualities of this book, whatsoever, IMHO. 😑

There were 10 stories in this collection (Korean Literature Series), and all were more or less 20 pages. All studies involved one or more people vomiting or having to clean up vomit. So — we all vomit and that is pa
Paul Fulcher
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Flowers of Mold is a collection of 10 stories, each around 20 pages, translated by Janet Hong (also translator of The Impossible Fairytale) from the Korean original of 하성란 (Ha Seong-nan).

하성란 was born in 1967, and made her publishing debut in 1996 with her short story "Grass" (not in this collection).

This collection was published in 1999 and entitled 옆집 여자, The Woman Next Door, after the first story (4th in the English edition). In the same year she won the prestigious Dong-in Literary Award with
Janie C.
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book of short stories that is written in a simple and straightforward manner. The characters are everyday and are immersed in the modernity of city life. The stories are deceptively undemanding on the reader until the surreal and the strange enter the milieu. Each story proves to be thought-provoking, causing the reader to take pause to put the stories into new perspectives. Pensive and entertaining, this book will titillate the contemplative and imaginative reader.
Book Riot Community
Flowers of Mold was originally published in 1999 and is only now making its English-language debut. It is a story collection with pieces that are mostly realistic but also deeply unsettling and strange. Many of them are about life in and around cities; they document people’s experiences in apartment buildings, parks, and workplaces. They are about life on crowded buses and in office complexes. Advertising messages on billboards feature prominently. The characters are trying their best to get by ...more
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
There was something beautiful and unsettling about this collection that had me hooked from the first story! I loved the range of perspectives we were thrown into across the stories, with varying ages and genders and walks of life. I think the author cleverly crafts stories mired in the ordinary that manages to capture the complexity within this at the same time. I also loved how the stories often took off in different directions and left me questioning issue raised on a more meta-level (The Woma ...more
Daniel Chaikin
Apr 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Ha is looking at the two faces of urban South Korea - on one hand the shining advertisements and hopes and dreams, and on the other hand all the trash and filth on the ground, and all the limitations in life; and she's looking at how people live within these contrasts, how it damages them and impacts how they act. There is a lot of false face, of humble inappropriate flirtation and manipulation, of careless risk-taking and self-destruction. There is a lot of moldy trash.

This is a 1999 collection
Brendan Monroe
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
South Korea is finally getting its due as the great storytelling mecca it is. The South Korean film industry has been on fire for decades now and director Boon Joon-Ho's latest film "Parasite" made history recently as the first South Korean film to score an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

Not to be left behind, well known South Korean authors like Han Kang and Ha Seong-nan are finally being discovered by western audiences. Though it was published in her native South Korea all the way back in
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
It's a dreamy collection of short stories that have completely slipped my mind. It's only been a week or so since I've finished and they're gone. There's nothing here to latch onto - completely elusive and ephemeral. Even murder is flattened in the telling. I had to return to the book and flip through the chapters to remember each story and already they're slipping away. It's frustratingly magical how these stories refuse to leave any sort of impression on me. ...more
Moondust Moth
Not what I expected. This is an #OwnVoice Korean book of short stories, and I was under the impression that the stories would lean more towards being speculative fiction with an underlying element of horror, possibly paranormal horror. While the stories are speculative, and some do hold a glimmer of dread, the overall themes were...very normal, but in a horrible way.

I found myself deeply unsettled and uncomfortable more than anything. Dysfunctional families, rape, sexual assault, an abundance of
Joe M
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This collection first came on my radar thanks to the fantastic Globetrotting feature in the New York Times earlier this year, showcasing some of the best upcoming lit-in-translation for 2019. I've been loving the recent crop of female Korean authors like Han Kang (The Vegetarian) and Han Yujoo (The Impossible Fairy Tale) so figured I'd give this a try as well. "Flowers of Mold" is Ha Seong-nan's English-language debut, and aptly titled as it blends the beautiful with the disturbing in ten wildly ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Referring you to Paul Fulcher's review for book details since time is precious and he does such a good job.

I would like to add is that the book was longlisted for the 2020 Pen America translation prize. The weird fiction aspect of these stories can sometimes be hit and miss, but I loved the author's depiction of commonplace characters, detailing them with enough quirks and nuance to make them individually interesting. I agree with Paul on "Waxen Wings," o
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
As many of you know, I like my tales, with a slightly menacing tone, especially, lurking just below the surface, and this unsettling collection of ten stories, fits that bill. These are all based in Korea and mostly deal with ordinary lives, being disrupted by disturbing or unusual events.
DeAnna Knippling
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Short stories about life in South Korea, dry and dissonant.

It took me a while to get a feel for these stories. The humor is so very dry, and the endings are like a series of gray days with drizzle. Nothing is resolved, just ended.

For all that, I couldn't stop reading, either.

The details are perfect, brutal, and so mundane that every moment felt like the lull in a horror movie before the monster attacks.

After a while, I started to pray for monsters--even monsters would be better than the lives
This is a fantastic collection of well-honed short stories by a very talented writer. Loved the way each story starts out focused on a seemingly ordinary life, and then Ha slowly peels away the reader's sense of normalcy, layer by layer, until leaving us equal parts disturbed and fascinated by the end. Can't wait for more from this author - Open Letter will be publishing at least one more collection from Ha in the (hopefully near) future. ...more
Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)
This collection of 10 short stories should be on your buy-and-read-this-immediately list!

One thing that is so important to me in my continuing reading education is exploring writers of color (especially women!) and also books in translation. This book ticks both of those boxes, but beyond that, it is a brilliant collection that should be a classic of world literature.

These stories were published in their original language, Korean, a decade ago in 1999, a fact I find astonishing because I was str
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
the ten stories that compose ha seong-nan's collection, flowers of mold, are each wonderfully unsettling in their own way. just beyond the periphery of normalcy, across the boundary of the banal and expected, ha's stories exist within a world where nothing is quite as it seems at first glance. obsession, compulsion, jealousy, paranoia, and perhaps even downright madness mark the private lives of her characters, which, inevitably, cannot be contained within for long. permeating the south korean a ...more
J $
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's something of a shame that it's taken so long for Ha's writing to see a wide English release, for had it happened sooner I'm almost positive she'd be a favorite among Asia's ever-increasing pool of genius contemporary women writers. Flowers of Mold is written with an awareness for the insignificant, crafting meticulous portraits of the unspoken anxieties and private delusions that often burden unassuming lives. Desperate for meaning, Ha's characters - a variety of struggling urbanites - ofte ...more
Chris Drew
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a very good set of short stories. Some are better then others, but Seong-nan's style (in translation) is so readable and feels so organic and off-the-cuff that my interest was consistently engaged and I was ready for anything to happen with each new passage. These are tight well crafted stories that turn on a dime, and mostly land with excellent little epiphanies.
The tone fits into something like a gothic realm, with each character and event depicted with realism undergirded with aspects
Kelly Furniss
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Similar to some of my other favourite Asian authors I love how Korean Ha Song-nan can take her characters everyday routine in life eg. commute, places, home and workplace etc and then suddenly they find themselves in unexpected circumstances or situations. The fragility is how the event is emotionally and physically dealt with, you can feel the dark edge and the suspense is held to the outcome of each of the ten separate stories.
Because routine is universal each tale is realistic even through s
Rebecca H.
These short stories are captivating. They are realistic, more or less, but also deeply unsettling and strange. Ha Seong-nan is a Korean writer, and many of her stories are about life in and around Seoul, about people’s experiences in apartment buildings, parks, and workplaces, about life on crowded buses and office complexes. Advertising messages on billboards feature prominently. Her characters are trying their best to get by, and I found them deeply sympathetic, but they often face obstacles t ...more
PVLD Reads
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
A collection of short stories, translated from Korean, that seem to have an elusive thread connecting them. You feel right on the edge of "seeing" or "feeling" something that is there in each story and in the collection. A little like deja-vu in feeling- there, but just far enough away that you can't grasp it. Unsettling and creepy while disturbing for reasons you can't quite put your finger on. I liked it!

Reviewed by Ketzie, Circ Mngr.

Find it in our eLibrary, here.
Matt Brown
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
these are gripping, haunting stories of nameless men and women plodding through the mundanity and isolation of life but really treading on the edge or fully sinking into madness. the language is direct and deliberate but there’s a rising tension and suspense built into every paragraph. i won a copy of this book in a giveaway from the publisher and i had almost no expectations for it, but after two pages of the first story, Waxen Wing, i was hooked and it just got better (much better) from there. ...more
Sarah Booker
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"He put on rubber gloves and picked up the garbage strewn about his entrance. Rotten potatoes and rice covered with green mold crumbled in his hands. He gagged repeatedly. Though the garbage was his own, it seemed completely foreign to him"

Excellent collection of weird and uncomfortable short stories. Excellent translation and lovely repetition of imagery throughout the stories.
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia, short-stories
These are incredible short stories. Each takes normal ordinary events and gives it a surprising & unsettling twist. Did the crime really happen or is it a nightmare? From crimes to characters to motives, things are not quite what they seem.

Great stories that at the end of each left me wanting to read more.
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This short story collection really hits my sweet spot of surreal-yet-grounded, ambiguous fiction.
Kimberly Ouwerkerk
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: korea
If you ask me about this book in a few years I will probably say rearview mirrors showing a different reality, broken glass, billboard models, getting to know a person by studying garbage and vomit, and flying. Those were the returning tropes for me in the ten stories in Flowers of Mold.

Take everyday life and throw in something unexpected and see how they react, what old traumas resurface and if they can stay in touch with reality. To them the change of fate is normal everyday life, for the read
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I selected this book because I love the cover, and because I'm trying to read more works in translation. I'm new to Ha Seong-Nan's work and wasn't sure what to expect, but what I found were smart and strange and often hilarious stories that really seem to capture life in modern Korea. My favorite of the bunch is "The Woman Next Door" but I also really loved "The Retreat." Buy this book! ...more
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This collection is from 1999, and I'm so glad someone decided to finally translate it into english, because this collection is a work of art. There was not a single story in this collection that I didn't like.
Ha Seong-nan writes beautifully and eerily about human nature and somehow makes even seemingly mundane stories seem dark and intriguing.
There's nothing supernatural about these stories, nor are they horror stories, but they leave you with an eerie feeling, and they leave you wanting more.
Ketzie Diaz
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A collection of short stories that seem to have a thread connecting them. You are not quite sure and that feeling of an elusive connection is in the individual stories as well. You feel right on the edge of "seeing" or "feeling" something that is there. A little like deja-vu- in its feeling- there, but just far enough away that you can't grasp it. Each story has that feeling and it is unsettling and creepy. I liked it! ...more
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