Winter in Sokcho


by Elisa Shua Dusapin

April 27, 2021
novel | pb | 160 pgs
5" x 8"


As if Marguerite Duras wrote Convenience Store Woman—a beautiful, unexpected novel from a debut French Korean author

It’s winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, beyond the beach guns point out from the North’s watchtowers. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape. The two form an uneasy relationship. When she agrees to accompany him on trips to discover an "authentic" Korea, they visit snowy mountaintops and dramatic waterfalls, and cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows—the gaudy neon lights, the scars of war, the fish market where her mother works. As she’s pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen. An exquisitely-crafted debut, which won the Prix Robert Walser, Winter in Sokcho is a novel about shared identities and divided selves, vision and blindness, intimacy and alienation. Elisa Shua Dusapin’s voice is distinctive and unmistakable.


About the Author: Elisa Shua Dusapin was born in France in 1992 and raised in Paris, Seoul, and Switzerland. Winter in Sokcho is her first novel. Published in 2016 to wide acclaim, it was awarded the Prix Robert Walser and the Prix Régine Desforges and has been translated into six languages.

About the Translator: Aneesa Abbas Higgins has translated books by Elisa Shua Dusapin, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Ali Zamir, and Nina Bouraoui. Seven Stones by Vénus Khoury-Ghata was short-listed for the Scott-Moncrieff Translation Prize, and both A Girl Called Eel by Ali Zamir and What Became of the White Savage by François Garde won PEN Translates awards.


Praise for Winter in Sokcho:

“Mysterious, beguiling, and glowing with tender intelligence, Winter in Sokcho is a master class in tension and atmospherics, a study of the delicate, murky filaments of emotion that compose a life. Dusapin has a rare and ferocious gift for pinning the quick, slippery, liveness of feeling to the page: her talent is a thrill to behold.”
—Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine

“A vivid, tactile, often claustrophobic, and gorgeously written novel. An absolute joy from beginning to end.”
Lara Williams, author of Supper Club

“I haven’t encountered a voice like this since Duras—spellbinding.”
ELLE (France)

“A masterful short novel.”
New Statesman

“Oiled with a brooding tension that never dissipates or resolves, Winter in Sokcho is a noirish cold sweat of a book.”
Guardian Top 10 Best New Books in Translation

“Dusapin’s precise sentences, expertly translated by Higgins, elicit cinematic images and strong emotions. This poignant, fully realized debut shouldn’t be missed.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

A pleasure to read. The descriptions of daily life in the titular town are beautiful, elliptical, and fascinating, from the fish markets near the beach to soju-drenched dinners in local bistros to a surreal glimpse of a museum on the DMZ. . . . A triumph.”
Kirkus, starred review

“Enigmatic, beguiling . . . This finely crafted debut explores topics of identity and heredity in compelling fashion. In its aimless, outsider protagonist there are echoes of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman.”
Irish Times

Vogue Top Five Debuts

“Beautifully translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins, comes together slowly, like a Polaroid photo, its effects both intimate and foreign.”

“A masterpiece.”
Huffington Post

“Elisa Shua Dusapin’s first-person narrative is formed of crystalline sentences that favor lucid imagery to describe themes of loneliness, familial obligation, identity, societal pressures and sexuality.”
ArtReview Asia

“The bustling seaside resort of Sokcho in South Korea is the perfect backdrop for this quietly haunting debut.”
Daily Mail

“(A) haunting portrait of an out-of-season tourist town on the border between North and South Korea . . . The story that unfolds is chilling.”

“Narrated in an elegant, enigmatic voice that skillfully summons the tenderness and mutability of an inner life, Winter in Sokcho is a lyrical and atmospheric work of art.”

—Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti

“Atmospheric, exquisitely written and highly charged.”
Olivia Sudjic, author of Sympathy

“Unassuming yet richly rewarding, Winter in Sokcho is the debut novel from Elisa Shua Dusapin. the young French writer's work is so beautifully adorned with atmospherics, that the sights, smells, sounds, and storms are quite nearly palpable. A wistfulness hangs like a low fog, enveloping Dusapin's story in a melancholia that, at once, invites and obscures. Winter in Sokcho elicits a certain moodiness or anticipatory longing, reminiscent of the feeling one might have had after watching Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation for the first time. Like one of Kerrand's sketches, so much exists in the spaces between the inky contours.”
Jeremy Garber, Powell's Books