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Lee Hyoseok

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Translated and introduced by Steven Capener

Set in 1940s colonial Korea and Japanese-occupied Manchuria, Endless Blue Sky tells the love story between Korean writer Ilma and Russian dancer Nadia. The novel is both a thrilling melodrama set in glamorous locations that would shortly be tragically ravaged by war, and a bold piece of writing espousing new ideas on love, marriage, and race. Reading this tale of cosmopolitan socialites finding their way in a new world of luxury hotels, racetracks, and cabarets, one gets a sense of the enthusiasm for the future that some felt in Korea at the time.

Honford Star’s edition of Endless Blue Sky,  the first in English, includes an introduction and explanatory notes by translator Steven D. Capener.

Endless Blue Sky
Subtitle: A Novel by Lee Hyoseok
Author: Lee Hyoseok
Translator: Steven Capener
Original language: Korean
Pages: 342
Publication date: July 2018
ISBN (paperback): 9781999791247
ISBN (ebook): 9781999791254

Lee Hyoseok (1907–1942) was born in Pyeongchang, in what is now South Korea. Publishing his first short story while studying English Literature at Keijō Imperial University, Lee’s early work displayed a sympathy for the socialist cause, and later became more modernist in style. Lee was famously part of Guinhoe, the ‘Group of Nine’, a group which included Yi Sang and Lee Taejun. Every year, his hometown celebrates his life with the Hyoseok Cultural Festival.

Steven D. Capener is a Korean-English translator and associate professor at Seoul Women’s University, having completed his PhD in Korean Literature at Yonsei University. Along with Endless Blue Sky, Steven has also translated various short stories by Lee Hyoseok and published articles on the influence of Blake, Whitman, and Mansfield on Lee’s work, as well as the author’s use of Europhilia and cosmopolitanism as a critique of tradition.

Set against the glittering background of 1940s Harbin and Seoul, colonial Korea takes centre stage in this page-turning melodrama. Endless Blue Sky comes with a new vibrancy and presents a new world; utterly pro-European in its ideology and peppered with avant-garde ideas on love and marriage, on success, fulfilment, and happiness.
— Kevin O’Rourke, translator of Our Twisted Hero by Yi Mun-yol
Endless Blue Sky depicts the complex identity and dreams of a colonial Korean traveling to Manchuria to find the West. There, he attempts to overcome his identity as a colonial subject, the influence of the Japanese empire, and the culture of the East. The novel vividly depicts various aspects of East Asia circa 1940; opium addiction, kidnapping, Russian refugees, Harbin dance cabarets, and symphony orchestras. This novel
deepened the spatial and cultural imagination of Korean novels in the colonial period, raising issues of globality and locality.
— Lee Kyounghoon, Associate Professor, Dept. of Korean Language and Literature, Yonsei University
Devotees of Korean literature in English translation tired of reading the same handful of canonical short stories by colonial period writers will welcome Steven Capener’s new annotated
translation of Endless Blue Sky. Finally we have another full length novel available to us in English from this period, and by one of modern Korea’s greatest lyricists and stylists.
— Ross King, Professor and Head of the Dept. of Asian Studies, The Univeristy of British Columbia