Book Talk: Farewell, Circus by Woon-Yeong Cheon

Colloquium | September 5 | 4 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Center for Korean Studies (CKS)

Woon-Yeoung Cheon’s novel Farewell, Circus takes us into the rarely portrayed underworld of foreign picture brides in South Korea.

When Inho, a mute man of modest means, is unable to find a wife, his mother contacts an international marriage agency and tasks his brother, Yunho, the only person who can understand Inho’s mangled speech, to help him. Together they interview ethnic Korean women living in China who are seeking the precious visa that will enable them to move to South Korea. Eager to weed out those who might take advantage of his brother, Yunho stages an interrogation. But when he discovers his growing feelings for his new sister-in-law, Haehwa, he becomes trapped in a deep silence of his own. Meanwhile, deeply reticent Haewha has her own secrets and desires.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Yunho and Haewha, Farewell, Circus crosses borders and seas to dramatize the silence that lies inside people living between cultures and in a world of rapidly changing histories, identities and demographies.

About the Author: Woon-Yeong Cheon

Born in Seoul, Korea, Cheon majored in Communications and Creative Writing at college. Ever since her debut with “Needle” in 2000, Woon-Yeong Cheon has been acclaimed as one of South Korea’s most daring and provocative literary voices. Her surreal writings, set in liminal spaces such as a train station, a slum, and the sea, feature socially alienated characters driven by physical needs like hunger, lust, or just a desire for warmth. In Farewell, Circus (2018), Cheon created her as yet most vulnerable, tragic heroine. Haehwa is an ethnically Korean woman who, born and raised in China, moves to South Korea to pursue a matched marriage with a rural worker in the province. The author’s nightmarish, grotesque style is movingly mixed here with a dreamy elegiac tone to portray Haehwa’s precarious journey through the social peripheries of her native and ancestral lands. Farewell, Circus is as much about an individual woman’s personal quest for freedom as it is about disability, marginalization, and transnational migration.

About the Translator: Jinim Park

Jinim Park is a professor in the Department of American Studies at Pyeong-taek University in Korea. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon, and served as a Fulbright Lecturer at Stanford University in 2007. Her other publications include Two-fold Language: Collected Essays on Korean Sijo Poetry in 2018 and Vietnam War Narratives by Korean and American Writies in 2007.

 cks@berkeley.edu, 510-642-5674