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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


An Appointment with my Brother

Yi Mun-Yol

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Title: An Appointment with my Brother
Author: Yi Mun-Yol
Genre: Novel
Written: 1994 (Eng. 2002)
Length: 111 pages
Original in: Korean
Availability: currently not available from Amazon.com
  • Korean title: 아우와의 만남
  • Translated by Suh Ji-moon

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Our Assessment:

B : small but effectively presented North-South encounters

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       In An Appointment with my Brother the South Korean narrator travels to Yenji (Yanji) in China, near the North Korean border. Originally he had hoped to be able to meet his father, who had defected to the North some four decades earlier, but the old man had already passed away. He wavers about meeting with a member of his father's second, North Korean family, but then decides to after all.
       The novella is an account of this trip to Yenji -- he goes with a tour group, so as to arouse less suspicion (and isn't the only one with a similar ulterior motive) -- and describes this odd outpost between South and North. The meeting with his brother is also fraught with emotion, as both are jealous of each other's connection with their father: the South Korean is the first-born and holds a special place because of that; the Northerner was able to grow up with this father who had abandoned his southern family .....
       Illusions are shattered, too. The narrator recalls:

Father was guided by the light of his luminous ideology. I heard that Father had once said to Mother that he'd be content to be a janitor of a primary school or a factory worker if only the republic in his heart became a reality.
       Yet the narrator is still disappointed to know that the former professor was "degraded to a civil engineer", and that he never played the prominent role the son had imagined:
My belief sprang from one fact, and one fact only: without believing that he was a giant, there was no way of explaining or justifying the sufferings and pains of my mother, myself, and my siblings.
       The meeting between half-brothers allows for a form of reconciliation, but the chasm between them remains great, mirroring the continued North-South divide. Unification, and the possible costs and dangers, both personal and economic, are repeatedly discussed, and the then-recent German example -- but also the far less successful one of Yemen -- are mentioned .
       An Appointment with my Brother is a small, personal story, but in its closely observed details and very human reactions succeeds both as a tale of (a beginning of) coming to terms with all the father-issues raised by these circumstances, as well as the greater South-North Korean divide and all the issues it brings with it.
       A fine small work.

- M.A.Orthofer, 5 April 2011

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Reviews: Other books by Yi Munyol under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       (South) Korean author Yi Mun Yol (이문열, Yi Munyol, Yi Mun-yol) was born in 1948. He has won numerous literary prizes, and his work has been translated into several foreign languages.

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