Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea, by Bandi

Staff review by Chris Saliba

A compelling collection of stories that go some way to explaining life in North Korea.

Bandi is the pen name of an anonymous North Korean writer. The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea comprises eight short stories, each about thirty pages long, written between 1989 and 1995. The manuscript was recently smuggled out of North Korea and is published for the first time. Bandi (the word means “firefly”) still lives in North Korea.

The stories describe many aspects of North Korean life. The wife of a man whose relatives have been denounced by the Party secretly takes contraceptive pills because she can't bear to think what fate her child might have; a couple are dragged off to jail because their young son was scared of a portrait of Karl Marx; a man who has spent his life faithful to the Party suddenly realises he has been duped by socialism's promise and becomes so consumed with rage he has a heart attack; an elderly woman has a chance meeting with Kim Il-sung (“the Great Leader, Father of Us All”) and is crippled with absolute terror.

This is an extraordinary collection. Bandi's stories are lucidly written, with an emphasis on individual characters faced with impossible situations. They are completely absorbing and explain the mindset and sufferings of those living under a totalitarian regime. Essential reading.

The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea, by Bandi. Published by Serptent's Tail. ISBN: 9781781258712 RRP: $27.99

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