Flowers of Mold
by Ha Seong-nan
April 23, 2019
stories | pb | 240 pgs.
5.5" x 8.5"
PW Pick: Books of the Week, April 22, 2019
"If you're looking for a book that will make you gasp out loud, you’ve found it."
“Joining a growing cohort of notable Korean imports, Ha’s dazzling, vaguely intertwined collection of 10 stories is poised for Western acclaim.”
—Booklist, starred review
"These mesmerizing stories of disconnection and detritus unfurl with the surreal illogic of dreams—it’s as impossible to resist their pull as it is to understand, in retrospect, how circumstance succeeded circumstance to finally deliver the reader into a moment as indelible as it is unexpected. Janet Hong’s translation glitters like a blade.”
"Flowers of Mold shows Ha Seong-nan to be a master of the strange story. . . . one is left feeling unsettled, as if something is not right with the world—or, rather (and this latter option becomes increasingly convincing), as if something is not right with you."
"Ha's ability to find startling traits in seemingly unremarkable characters makes each story a small treasure."
On the surface, Ha Seong-nan’s stories seem pleasant enough, yet there’s something disturbing just below the surface, ready to permanently disrupt the characters’ lives.
A woman meets her next-door neighbor and loans her a spatula, then starts suffering horrific gaps in her memory. A man, feeling jilted by an unrequited love, becomes obsessed with sorting through his neighbors’ garbage in the belief that it will teach him how to better relate to people. A landlord decides to raise the rent, and his tenants hatch a plan to kill him at a team-building retreat.
In ten captivating, unnerving stories, Flowers of Mold presents a range of ordinary individuals—male and female, young and old—who have found themselves left behind by an increasingly urbanized and fragmented world.
The latest in the trend of brilliant female Korean authors to appear in English, Ha cuts like a surgeon, and even the most mundane objects become menacing and unfamiliar under her scalpel.
Translated from the Korean by Janet Hong
About the Author:
Ha Seong-nan is the author of five short story collections—including Bluebeard's First Wife and Flowers of Mold—and three novels. Over her career, she's received a number of prestigious awards, such as the Dong-in Literary Award in 1999, Hankook Ilbo Literary Prize in 2000, the Isu Literature Prize in 2004, the Oh Yeong-su Literary Award in 2008, and the Contemporary Literature (Hyundae Munhak) Award in 2009.
About the Translator:
Janet Hong is a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. Her work has appeared in Brick: A Literary Journal, Literary Hub, Asia Literary Review, Words Without Borders, and the Korea Times. Her other translations include Han Yujoo's The Impossible Fairy Tale and Ancco's Bad Friends.
"Brilliantly crafted with precision and compassion, Ha Seong-nan's heartbreaking collection dives into the depths of human vulnerability, where hopes and dreams are created and lost, where ordinary life gains mythological status. A truly gifted writer."
—Nazanine Hozar, author of Aria
"I’m raving about this book. . . . It is brilliant, modern, and surprising."
"As horror and art continue to steal and mix with each other, I’m sure we’ll find more—on both sides of the aisle—that continue to push the envelope. Flowers of Mold pushes that envelope with its impressive style and stifling isolation, creating something that’s as strange as it is incisive."
"These aren’t bedtime stories. Indeed, reading them before bed might not be a good idea at all."
—Asian Review of Books
"Be forewarned: it might make you reconsider your interest in your neighbors, because it could lead to obsession and madness—or something odder and less reassuring than a tidy end, of which there are few in this wonderfully unsettling book of 10 masterful short stories."
—John Yau, Hyperallergic
"Flowers of Mold offers readers an alternative perspective on city life, relationships, and ambition; and while it may be dark and unrelenting, it is also hauntingly lyrical."
—Rachel S. Cordasco, World Literature Today